Commissioners pass new 14-day burn ban

JAMES BEATY | Staff photo

Top row, from left: McAlester/Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe presents information regarding the drought in Pittsburg County to County Commissioners Ross Selman. Kevin Smith and Charlie Rogers. Also seated at bottom, from left, are County Clerk Hope Trammell and Commissioners' First Deputy, Sandra Crenshaw.

With no measurable rain in the forecast, Pittsburg County commissioners passed a new 14-day burn ban.

The burn ban went into effect immediately upon passage during the commissioners' regular Monday meeting held Oct. 3 at the Pittsburg County Courthouse.

Anyone convicted of violating the county-wide burn ban will be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor violation and faces maximum penalties of up to a $500 fine, a year in jail, or both, the resolution states.

The resolution makes it unlawful to set fire to any forest, grass, range, crop or other wildlands. It's also unlawful to build a campfire, bonfire, or to burn trash or other material. Using fireworks that may cause a forest, grass, range,crop or other wildland fire is also prohibited.

Outdoor welding will be allowed, provided there is fire watch personnel on-scene while welding and/or cutting activities are being preformed, the resolution states.

McAlester/Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe prepared two resolutions for consideration by county commissioners — one seeking a 14-day burn ban, and another for seven days.

Enloe told commissioners he had taken a poll of fire chiefs in Pittsburg County to see whether they supported enacting a new burn ban upon expiration of the previous one. Twenty-seven of the fire chiefs voted in favor of passing a new burn ban. Only one voted against it, he said.

"No rain is in the forecast for the next 10 days," Enloe told the commissioners, referring to the National Weather Service forecast. He also noted Pittsburg County has reached the highest drought designation from the U.S. Drought Monitor, which tracks drought conditions around the nation.

"We are in an Exceptional Drought, which is the worst," Enloe said. That's a level higher, or worse, than Pittsburg County's previous Extreme Drought designation.

With no measurable rain in the NWS forecast for the next 10 days, the long-range forecast doesn't show much improvement.

"The long-range forecast is looking at no relief from drought conditions until possibly the end of December, for sure the end of November," Enloe said.

Average October rainfall for Pittsburg County is around 3.5 inches, he said.

"It don't look like we'll get it unless a hurricane goes through the Gulf and comes up," said Enloe.

Commissioners opted to put the longer burn ban in place.

"I make a motion we set it for 14 days," said County Commission Chairman/District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith. District 1 Commissioner Charlie Rogers and District 3 Commissioner Ross Selman voted with Smith to make the vote unanimous.

Any law enforcement office in the state of Oklahoma can enforce the burn ban, the resolution states.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalester news.com.

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