Okmulgee County issues burn ban

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Updated: 1/27 5:22 pm Published: 1/27 3:10 pm

Dry conditions and strong winds pushed Okmulgee County to issue a burn ban.

Across the county of Okmulgee, FOX23 found out many of the fire departments operate of volunteers. Those volunteer firefighters wanted to bring in the burn ban, but FOX23 also found out law enforcement has a tough time cracking down on the violators.

“Whether it be in the open prairie or in the woods, that much wind will move a fire rapidly,” said Emergency Management Director Timothy Craighton.

He said he knows how fast a fire can spread. A former fireman himself, Craighton said the fire creates its own wind on top of what Mother Nature blows in.

“When you start a fire, it creates its own wind because of the heat that it has. Multiply that with wind like we had last night, 50 mph, and the fire will get it across ground,” he said.

And he said people don't often realize that if a fire starts on their property, they're also responsible for wherever it spreads.

“If I would set a fire and it would go to your house, I’m liable for your house,” he said.

FOX23 went to the Okmulgee County Sheriff's Office to see how they enforce the ban.

“It's a case-by-case basis, normally,” said Fred McGuire, with the Sheriff’s Office.

He said their job gets tough trying to determine who started a fire, and whether or not it was intentional.

“Everything is difficult to prove sometimes, but normally look at all the facts in front of us, and sometimes we have to call in a fire marshal, a state fire marshal to come in and help us with cause and origin for certain fires,” he said.

And those fires especially hurt volunteer departments that already have limited resources.

Along with a $500 fine, violators of the burn ban could also face up to a year in prison.

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