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Gov Henry Institutes Statewide Burn Ban to Protect Lives and Property

Oklahoma City – Citing recent wildfires, the ongoing drought and continuing hot and windy weather conditions, Gov. Brad Henry today reinstated a statewide burn ban for Oklahoma.

The governor’s office announced the decision Wednesday morning after meeting with state fire experts and reviewing meteorological data from around the state. Officials with the Department of Agriculture recommended a new burn ban, citing extraordinary fire danger in Oklahoma.

“We need to do everything we can to protect lives and property,” said Gov. Henry. “With the drought, extreme heat and high winds, conditions are very hazardous and even the smallest fire can quickly get out of control. A burn ban won’t prevent every fire, but it will help lessen the danger.”

Oklahoma is currently experiencing its worst drought in state history. The vast majority of the state is plagued with high fire danger conditions, and even the few areas that have received rain recently will soon be parched and equally hazardous, according to agriculture officials.

More than 13,000 acres have burned in the last two weeks. In Oklahoma County alone, firefighters have battled 32 wildfires over the last 12 days.

“I would prefer to err on the side of caution and issue the ban before conditions deteriorate any further. It may cause a small inconvenience for some Oklahomans, but it will also help reduce the number of dangerous fires and possibly save lives in the process. With the scorching heat and high winds, our firefighters are already laboring in very dangerous conditions, and the ban will provide them some much-needed assistance,” said the governor.

Under the governor’s executive order, outdoor burning is banned, but there are some exemptions for low risk activities such as charcoal and gas grilling. Occupations such as welding can also earn exemptions, provided tradesmen follow specific protections outlined by the Department of Agriculture.

Violations of the ban are misdemeanors punishable by as much as a $500 fine and one-year imprisonment.

Gov. Henry said the burn ban would remain in effect for as long as conditions merit.

“Ultimately, the fire threat will not diminish until we have significant rainfall and cooler weather. Until then, it’s critical that Oklahomans practice commonsense and obey the burn ban. We’ve already been through a historic wildfire season in Oklahoma, and I know everyone would like to avoid a repeat performance,” the governor said.

Because of record drought conditions, Oklahoma has been under some form of burn ban seven of the last 10 months. When Gov. Henry last lifted a ban in May, he made it clear he would not hesitate to reinstate it if the high fire danger returned.