By Conrad Dudderar
Canadian County’s outdoor burning restrictions are back in force.
Canadian County Commissioners, by a 2-1 vote, approved a resolution to enact a burn ban that took effect 9 a.m. Monday, July 25 “due to an extreme fire danger” that now exists in the county.
The 14-day ban is due to expire Aug. 8 but may be lifted earlier if conditions improve.
District 3 Commissioner Jack Stewart and District 1 Commissioner Marc Hader voted “yes” while District 2 Commissioner Dave Anderson voted “no”.
Stewart pointed to the triple-digit temperatures in this week’s forecast.
While high temperatures are predicted to drop Friday through Sunday after hitting 99 on Thursday, Stewart said they will be back over 100 again next week.
Neighboring Blaine and Caddo counties have had significant fires over the past week, he added.
Commissioner Hader referred to rain chances this Thursday through next Monday, saying projections show a potential total accumulation of “maybe” half an inch.
“There’s not much of a chance for a significant rain,” he said.
Anderson, the board’s chairman, said he thinks having a burn ban is a good idea.
However, he said he wasn’t certain that commissioners have the “legal authority” to approve one under current circumstances.
Anderson read from Title 2 of Oklahoma state law that allows counties to pass a burn ban resolution.
One condition is that a “severe, extreme, or exceptional drought condition exists” as determined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“I printed the most recent NOAA map, and Canadian County is not in a severe, extreme or exceptional drought,” Anderson said. “That’s my only reservation about a burn ban.”
The statute allows commissioners – in their burn ban resolution – to grant exceptions to the fire prohibition based on “appropriate, precautionary measures.”
Canadian County was under a burn ban for much of the first four months of 2022 due to dry vegetation, windy conditions and lack of significant moisture.
The last resolution expired in mid-April.
Fire chiefs from Yukon, El Reno, Okarche, Piedmont, Union City, Cedar Lake, and Geary recently asked that commissioners place a new burn ban in effect.
Geary Fire Chief Jeff Choate, in a letter to Commissioner Stewart, said “fire crews all over the state are getting worn down” fighting grass fires – and they “need a break.”
“I know a burn ban is not the cure-all, but it would help,” Choate wrote in his letter.
Anyone violating Canadian County’s burn ban is subject to a maximum $500 fine and/or one year in jail.
‘NOT THAT RESTRICTIVE’
Canadian County residents who wish to burn outside can – but only if permitted by their local fire districts.
Specific exceptions to the burn ban are:
- Outdoor gas grilling and charcoal grilling with a hood covering the cooking area
- Cutting and welding operations – if approved “prior to the operation” and permitted by local fire authorities having jurisdiction
- Burning vegetative debris – if the weather forecast and conditions become favorable, a detailed burn plan accompanies the request, the request is made at least 48 hours in advance, and adequate fire suppression is arranged and approved by permit.
Canadian County’s burn ban really is “not that restrictive,” according to Commissioner Hader.
“If people really want to burn, all they have to do is coordinate with the fire district,” he said. “It’s not like we’re putting handcuffs on people for their livelihoods.”
Commissioner Stewart agreed.
“Someone who really feels like they need to burn during this time period can get with their fire chief or the fire district they live or work in and visit with them – and possibly be granted the exception,” he said.
State law exempts agriculture producers burning cropland from any burn ban resolution approved by county commissioners, Chairman Anderson pointed out.
“If they want to burn their wheat fields and stubble, this doesn’t stop them,” he said.