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What sparks a massive wildfire?


Between the heat and the drought, it doesn’t take much to start a devastating fire.

In the last few days, we’ve seen it happen quite a few times.

One simple spark can ignite hundreds of acres, threatening homes, property and livestock.

We know it’s dangerous to throw cigarettes out the window, but even throwing a bottle out is dangerous, as well as pulling over onto grass just to change a tire.

Anyone can unintentionally start a massive wildfire.

Payne County officials said the sparks from a muffler dragging from a vehicle may have caused Monday’s fires near Stillwater.

Pottawatomie County officials said Sunday’s fire near Earlsboro was caused by someone burning trash in trash cans.

Last September, Logan County authorities blamed a lawnmower for starting a fire.

“It’s accidental and nobody intends to (start a fire), but we’re going to see that a lot here in the next few days,” State Fire Marshal Robert Doke said.

Most of central, western and northern Oklahoma is under high fire danger.

“It’s just extremely dangerous,” he said. “All it takes is a spark on dry vegetation and you’re going to have a fire.”

He said many fires start when people pull off a road onto dry grass, which ignites from a hot undercarriage.

Broken glass from a bottle can act like a magnifying glass.

If you work outdoors…

“Grinding sparks will set grass on fire, easy as throwing a match out there,” Lee Steeds said, at L&L Welding.

Steeds and his son try to work inside these days.

When he’s outside, he recommends watering down work areas in advance and having someone else watch out for sparks.

He hasn’t forgotten one accident that happened while working at his house.

“It didn’t take but five or 10 seconds and I looked around and half my backyard was burning,” he recalled.

He recommends keeping a fire extinguisher handy when working outside.

Doke said another hidden danger is chains hanging from trailer hitches, which can also cause sparks while traveling down the road.

If the wind is blowing, one spark can get out of control in a hurry.

The Oklahoma Insurance Department urges everyone to make a home inventory checklist.

It will make an insurance claim settlement easier and faster.

Get more information on an inventory checklist here.