Clinton Fire Department Ch ief Brett Russell warns that despite the occasional moisture the area has seen lately, the risk of fire remains very high in western Oklahoma and people are advised to stay alert.
Russell said people have a hard time believing that fire danger could be dangerously high when it may have rained only the day before. But he emphasized that when humidity is below 20 percent and winds are high, what moisture there may be dries out quickly.
“Because of the spring we had last year, and the amount of rainfall we had all last summer, the fuel load is extremely high right now because of the growth,” said Russell. “With this fuel load, when the humidity starts getting below that 20-percent mark and the wind’s blowing 35 to 40 miles an hour, any moisture that we get dries out extremely quick.”
He called the combination of high fuel load, low humidity and high wind “a recipe for disaster.”
“If someone calls me and says, ‘Hey, I want to burn something tomorrow,’ I might say, well, the wind is going to be up, and the humidity is going to be down, so please, please make sure that your fire is out so we don’t create a problem like we had last year.”
Clinton residents aren’t allowed to burn anything inside the city limits, and businesses may burn only with a permit from the fire department. But there are other fire risks that people need to be aware of, said Russell.
“That fire we had recently out on I-40, I think there were about 12 different fires between here and Hydro, that was all because of a chain being drug on a semi,” he said. “We had fires everywhere. Luckily we were able to keep it under control, but it was just ignorance and somebody having a loose load and the chain was dragging.
“There was another fire within the Clinton city limits that was caused by a drive shaft which had fallen from a truck. The sparks it raised started a grass fire. In that case the nearby grass was low and bystanders used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire before it took off, but it could just as easily have gone a different way.
“It was a small fire, but my point is there’s always something that could happen,” said Russell. “People just need to think through all the ramifications of what they do.”