Dry conditions pose danger, officials say

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By Traci Chapman

Recent snowfall and light rain have done nothing to ease dry conditions, something Mustang and Oklahoma City firefighters learned Monday when a grass fire involving about 100 acres sprung up.

The fire began literally along the side of SW 59th Street, just north of the city’s sewer plant. Oklahoma City fire investigators said the proximity of the blaze to the road suggested someone dropped a lit cigarette as they walked or drove by.

While the blaze did not damage any homes, the strong winds at the time made it difficult for firefighters who stayed on the scene for several hours, putting out hot spots that kept cropping up. Mustang firefighters were on the scene throughout assisting Oklahoma City Fire Department in its efforts.

The fire was a signal for people who thought conditions were not dry, Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman said.

“It’s bad because there is a lot of underbrush and we really haven’t gotten much precipitation,” the chief said. “People really need to be careful with this because the snow we’ve gotten hasn’t solved our problems.”

(Photo/Traci Chapman)

(Photo/Traci Chapman)

Officials across the state agreed.

“If anything, the big worry is now fire danger,” stated John Harrington, Association of Central Oklahoma Governments director of water resources, in his regular report. “With the warm weather this week also comes wind, lots of it. 

“Add that to a really dry winter and fire danger is now extreme,” he said.

According to the National Weather Service in Norman, there isn’t a lot of relief in sight. While burn bans have not remained in place, officials urge residents to be mindful of conditions, particularly strong winds that have been blowing in recent days. If some precipitation doesn’t come soon, it could mean a “painful” summer for the area, Harrington said.

“The next three months are critical; a dry spring will almost certainly lead to a cruel summer,” he said.

Mustang, following Oklahoma City’s lead, continues its Stage 1 water rationing, with odd/even watering “now permanently in effect,” City Manager Tim Rooney said. What that means for residents is even-numbered street addresses water on even days of the month, and odd-numbered addresses are able to water on odd days.

“This is just the basic, everyday stage, but if things don’t improve, the restrictions can be progressively increased,” Rooney said last week.

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For more information about water rationing and steps to save water, go to www.squeezeeverydrop.com. More information about the drought is available from ACOG at www.acogblog.wordpress.com.