Why no burn ban before Pott. County fire?


EARLSBORO, Okla. — Fire crews in Pottawatomie County spent Monday making sure hot spots from Sunday’s massive wildfire near Earlsboro didn’t flare up.

More than 1,000 acres burned, forcing the evacuation of nearly 30 homes.

Shawnee/Pottawatomie County Emergency Management Director Don Lynch said Monday the fire started from residents burning trash, northeast of Earlsboro.

They won’t face criminal prosecution because there was no “burn ban” in effect.

“It was very scary. It was panic,” Kimberly Brakhage said, who was at work when Sunday’s fire was raging just a few feet from her house.

Her husband and son were evacuated and after staying with family overnight, they came home at 8 a.m. Monday to see just how lucky they were.

“Definitely makes me thankful that I have homeowner’s insurance and for anybody that doesn’t have it, they need to have it,” she said.

Residents near where the fire started did not want to comment.

“If we had lost a bunch of houses, it might have made a huge difference by having a burn ban,” Earlsboro Mayor Brian Nipper said. “We don’t know.”

Why wasn’t there a burn ban before Sunday?

Lynch said of the five state law criteria that must be met, Pottawatomie County Commissioners decided they met only two of them.

Drought conditions were severe and initial attacks on previous fires had been unsuccessful.

However, he said more than a half-inch of rain was in the forecast, less than 20 percent of recent fires were caused by escaped embers and a majority of county fire chiefs did not believe that extreme fire danger existed.

Regardless, Nipper said the trash burning unnecessarily caused a massive effort from several fire departments to put it out.

“One-hundred-fifty, 200 people were involved in helping put this thing out on a fire that could have been completely avoided one hundred and ten percent,” he said.

“People are going to do what they want to do because they always think, ‘Oh, it won’t happen to me,’” Brakhage said.

Monday afternoon, however, Pottawatomie County Commissioners did vote to enact a burn ban, effective immediately, mostly because of Sunday’s fire and the forecast.

For the latest on which counties are currently in a burn ban, click here.