WICHITA COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — Fire departments around Texoma continue battling grass fires at a rate they aren’t quite used to, and many have learned that these burn bans are no joke.
Several Texoma counties have been under burn bans for a few months now, but grass fires are still frequent.
“It just doesn’t take much to get to be really big, and then it’s a lot of effort to put it out,” Lake Arrowhead Fire Chief Mike Hall said. “We’ve had a lot of fires just lately in the middle of this burn ban and just pop up right away.”
From Wichita West to Lake Arrowhead and Byers Volunteer Fire Departments, the recent cold spell isn’t helping as much as they’d like.
“A little bit of snow, a little bit of ice doesn’t put us out of that danger zone, so we need significant rainfall and the green-up to start happening before we get out of that danger zone,” Byers Volunteer Firefighter Steven Miles said.
Until then, Captain Chris Bashford and Wichita West are staying plenty busy.
“I believe we’re already around 70 calls this year, and when I first started, we averaged about 100 for the year, so we’re way ahead of what we used to be,” Bashford said.
Going on a few months now since burn bans were activated in various Texoma counties, Miles hopes the community can pitch in if they spot smoke.
“We’d much rather go out to a pre-approved control burn and be canceled then, you know, somebody burning a brush pile,” Miles said. “I’m not going to worry about it then, unless it of course it gets to something large scale.”
Because you may see some exceptions, there are steps you can take if you absolutely need to burn something.
“Just because someone else is burning doesn’t mean you can burn,” Bashford said. “Call your local VFD dispatch, if you are living in the county, and tell them, ‘Hey, I’ve got this, do I qualify for a burn?'”
In the end, these volunteer fire departments rely on the community for support in many aspects and are just looking to keep people safe.
“That’s all you’ve got out here in rural areas, are volunteers,” Miles said.
“I don’t want to be the bad guy and say you can’t do that – I enjoy a campfire as much as the next person – unfortunately the rules are the rules,” Hall said.
The rules have to be followed, regardless of the conditions.