Gov. Mary Fallin removed 22 counties, including Oklahoma County, on Monday from a statewide burn ban that has been in place since Aug. 3.
Campfires, controlled burns and other outdoor fires are still prohibited in 55 counties in Oklahoma under the statewide ban.
The Tulsa County Commission approved a county-level burn ban on Monday after the county was released from the state ban.
“Though several counties are not covered by burn bans, conditions are still conducive to sustaining wildland fire,” state Forester George Geissler said in a prepared statement. “I ask all Oklahomans to be very cautious with activities that could spark a wildfire such as grilling, campfires or any other outdoor burning.”
Grilling on gas- and charcoal-fueled stoves is not prohibited under either state or county-level bans, but the outdoor cooking must take place in a grilling receptacle 5 feet from flammable vegetation.
Wildfires ravished parts of Oklahoma this summer, killing a woman in Norman and destroying or damaging more than 300 homes.
“With wildfires burning thousands of acres and hundreds of homes, this was a difficult summer for many families and businesses,” Fallin said in a statement. “However, challenging circumstances once again gave Oklahomans an opportunity to demonstrate why we are such a strong and resilient community. My thanks go out to our first responders and firefighters, the many volunteers who worked to support their operations or offer help to friends and neighbors in-need, and all of our citizens for their vigilance in preventing wildfires and obeying state and county burn bans.”
The decision to lift a burn ban is based on several weather indicators, including recent rainfall and drought conditions.
“The areas of the state where the governor's burn ban were lifted match up fairly well with the areas that received above normal rainfall in the last 30 days,” said Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. “It's not a perfect match, of course, but it's a pretty good guide.
“That rainfall improved soil moisture and since we're still in September, allowed for a bit of a green up of vegetation. Those factors combined help to ease the wildfire danger a bit.”
As of last Tuesday, almost 40 percent of the state had exceptional drought conditions, while 95 percent of the state was facing extreme to exceptional drought conditions.
McManus said the next U.S. Drought Monitor map, which will be released this Thursday, will take into account the rainfall of late last week. The Drought Monitor considers any rainfall that occurred up through each Tuesday morning for that week's map.
Violation of the burn ban is a misdemeanor and comes with up to a $1,000 fine or up to a year imprisonment. The maximum fine for county level burn bans is $500.