Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management
Situation Update 1
April 10, 2011 10:30 a.m.
CONTACT: Michelann Ooten, Public Information Officer
STATE EOC ACTIVATED DUE TO EXTREME WILDFIRE DANGER
Due to the extreme wildfire conditions across the state, the State Emergency Operations Center is at Level Two activation, which involves extended operating hours with liaisons from partnering agencies present. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) is in contact with emergency managers in the affected areas. Liaisons in the EOC represent the Oklahoma National Guard, Oklahoma Forestry Services, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma Corporation Commission, National Weather Service, Salvation Army and American Red Cross. OEM is also working with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
STATE OF EMERGENCY
A State of Emergency is in effect for all 77 Oklahoma counties as Gov. Mary Fallin has extended the State of Emergency she first declared for the wildfires on March 11. Under the executive order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions. The declaration also marks a first step toward seeking federal disaster assistance should it be necessary.
The National Weather Service has posted a Red Flag Fire Warning for the western two-thirds of the state. This covers an area extending from roughly Bartlesville to Tulsa to Ardmore and all points west. Fire conditions will worsen through this afternoon when very dry and warm air combined with very strong southwest winds, 30 to 40 mph with gusts over 50 mph, are certain to make it easier for fires to spread. Additionally, a slight risk for severe thunderstorms exists for southeastern Oklahoma.
Today’s fire weather carries the potential for damages not seen since April 9, 2009 when more than 100,000 acres burned and over 200 homes were destroyed in Midwest City, Choctaw, Chickasha and other Oklahoma communities.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission reports 750 homes and businesses remain without power in Ponca City due to severe weather that impacted the area Friday night. Ponca City municipal power restoration crews, assisted by crews from Stillwater and Edmond, expect to bring service back on line by around noon today.
- A National Guard helicopter was deployed this morning to assist with mop-up on a fire in Cleveland (Pawnee County) that started Saturday. Damage assessments are underway on this fire that required evacuation of more than 350 people and charred more than 1,500 acres. On Saturday, three National Guard helicopters delivered water drops and numerous local fire departments provided mutual aid assistance on the blaze.
- A National Guard helicopter is being deployed to assist with mop-up on a fire near Granite (Greer County) that started Saturday.
The State EOC is working with the Oklahoma National Guard to provide aerial fire suppression via Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters equipped with buckets. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is assisting with ground to air fire observation via OHP airplane. Oklahoma Forestry Services is providing ground firefighting equipment. Oklahoma Department of Transportation is reminding motorists of the extreme wildfire conditions via their message boards located on state Interstates and Turnpikes.
PRICE GOUGING STATUTE IN EFFECT
Oklahoma’s price gouging statute remains in effect in all of Oklahoma’s 77 counties due to the State of Emergency. The price gouging statute prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent in the price of most goods and services when a State of Emergency has been declared. Anyone who suspects price gouging is urged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at (405) 521-2029.
For Oklahoma residents seeking non-emergency disaster or health and human service information, please contact your local 2-1-1. Services are available 24 hours a day by dialing 2-1-1 from your home or cellular telephone. Please only call 911 for emergencies.
Wildfires are often caused by human activity. High winds and dry conditions can set the stage for potentially severe fires. The greatest single cause is when burning debris is not properly contained and sparks or burning trash blow into the air.
Oklahomans can help prevent fires if they:
- Be careful when pulling off a road or driving into a field. Hot catalytic converters can ignite vegetation.
- Avoid burning trash. Even a barrel covered with a screen can allow a spark to escape, igniting nearby vegetation.
- If you smoke in your car, extinguish cigarettes in vehicle ashtrays. Never toss a cigarette out of a car window, and don’t put cigarettes out on the ground.
- Keep a fire extinguisher and water handy when working outdoors with equipment that gets hot, or involves sparks, such as welding equipment. Water down outdoor work areas in advance if possible.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Choose a route away from the fire hazard and be alert to changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
When weather conditions make wildfires more likely in your area, prepare by taking the following precautions:
- Keep firefighting tools handy, such as: ladder long enough to reach the roof, shovel, rake and buckets.
- Place connected garden hoses on all sides of the house for emergency use.
- Know all emergency exits from your house.
- Learn all routes leading out of your neighborhood.
As fires actually approach, take the following actions:
- Park your car facing the direction of escape.
- Shut off gas at the meter. Only a qualified professional can safely turn the gas back on.
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Place combustible patio furniture inside.
Oklahomans are reminded to report any suspicious wild land fire activity to the Arson Tip Line 1-866-662-7766 (1-866-NO-ARSON).
Next Situation Update: As conditions warrant