McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

February 24, 2014

Commissioners say "No" to burn ban

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Pittsburg County commissioners say they had to say “no” to a burn ban requested by 27 Pittsburg County fire departments because of a law signed in May by Gov. Mary Fallin.

Commissioners and District Attorney Farley Ward said the county could not vote for a countywide burn ban because of the law.

They said the law, which had been changed by Fallin, modified the definition of “Extreme Fire Danger” under Oklahoma Forestry Service guidelines.

Ward said commissioners were following law in not declaring a burn ban during Monday’s meeting of commissioners at the Pittsburg County Courthouse.

Ward said he was referring to the Oklahoma Forestry Services County Ban on Outdoor Burning Guidelines which was modified by House Bill 1762.

To declare a burn ban, commissioners must declare the existence of extreme fire danger which, according to the law, means severe drought conditions must exist as determined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The OFS guidelines also require that no more than a half-inch of precipitation is forecast by the National Weather Service for the next three days.

During the meeting, Pittsburg County Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe said a burn ban was requested by Crowder Fire Chief Gary Brooks.

“We polled the other fire departments and we had 26 that said they wanted it and two that didn’t,”  Enloe said.

Also during the meeting, District 3 Commissioner Trent Myers said 14 other counties in the state, including Latimer County, have declared a burn ban.

“I think we ought to be in it, but that’s just my opinion,” Myers said during the meeting.

Also during the meeting, commissioners unanimously approved and signed a resolution proclaiming this week as Emergency Management Week.

“As we move toward another severe storm season, this is a good time to recognize Pittsburg County’s Emergency Management efforts that work to keep us safe,” Enloe said.

District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith and District 1 Commissioner Gene Rogers also attended Monday’s meeting.

Pittsburg County commissioners meet Mondays at 9 a.m. in the commissioner’s conference room at the Pittsburg County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.