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NPR Story
12:41 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Drought-fueled Wildfires Prompt State of Emergency, Burn Ban for 36 Counties

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Oklahoma Forestry Services

The ongoing drought, combined with above-average heat and high winds, have led to several wildfires in western and central Oklahoma this week, including a fire near Guthrie that killed one person and forced more than 1,000 people from their homes.

In response, Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties, and a burn ban for 36.

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U.S. Drought Monitor

In a press release, Fallin says the state Forestry Services recommended the ban as the drought is expected to continue, particularly in western Oklahoma. It’s no coincidence that the latest update of the U.S. Drought Monitor, which shows the areas of the state most severely impacted by drought, closely resembles the burn ban map.

She says the emergency declaration “allows state agencies to acquire resources that can aid in that firefighting effort,” and is a first step toward getting federal aid.

The Associated Press’ Kristi Eaton talked to residents near Guthrie who have been devastated by the fire that ravaged the area on Sunday:

Rachel Hudson, 32, lost her home in the blaze. And around the time the fire arrived, her daughter Mariah was in a car accident. The teenager will need surgery.

“That was all going on at the same time our house was burning down,” Hudson said by telephone as she sought shelter provided by the local American Red Cross. The home where lived with her daughter, her ex-husband and her mother was not insured.

“I’m scared. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said, starting to cry. “We lost everything.”

The burn ban includes the following counties: Alfalfa, Beaver, Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Cimarron, Cleveland, Comanche, Cotton, Custer, Dewey, Ellis, Garfield, Grady, Grant, Greer, Harmon, Harper, Jackson, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, Major, McClain, Noble, Oklahoma, Payne, Pawnee, Roger Mills, Texas, Tillman, Washita, Woods and Woodward.

Copyright 2014 StateImpact Oklahoma. To see more, visit http://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/.