Firefighters battle prescribed blaze and soaring temperatures

Firefighters battle prescribed blaze and soaring temperatures
(Source KSWO)
(Source KSWO)

INDIAHOMA, OK (KSWO) - Firefighters are struggling to stay cool while torching thousands of acres on the Wildlife Refuge in an effort to keep brush and overgrowth under control.

Workers ignited the controlled blaze, as fire crews from all across the country have come together to help. The crews are using these drip torches to start the fire, with some members walking along the roads to start them from the exterior and some walking the trails to start the fires from the center. They plan to burn three-thousand acres over the next week in order to prevent future wildfires from getting out of control.

The smoke and flames continue to bellow all over this area. The 30 firefighters from all around the country will continue igniting the flames for the rest of the day, before simply monitoring them for the rest of the week. The biggest problem they are having to deal with is the combination of Oklahoma heat and the heat coming from those flames.

Jon Morris is part of the team that came up from Burkburnett, Texas and says his group has been monitoring the ignited flames to ensure they do not cross into anywhere they do not want them. He says they are also monitoring the firefighters who are walking through the field igniting it.

"Once you get in there and start laying some fire on the ground, if it's 104 outside and you're right up next to that fire line it's just that much hotter. So it's definitely better to be hydrated, stay hydrated and don't let it get ahead of you," Morris said.

"These guys that are out walking around in the heat carrying their packs and carrying the drip torches, it's a lot easier on them because they don't get as beaten down with the heat and we don't end up with as many injuries as if it was 105 or 110. It's really nice and makes it a lot easier," says Steven Natho, a forestry technician at the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge.

Crews came from all over and are bearing the heat because they know how important it is for a controlled burn to take place.

"Taking away some of the fuel, eliminating any kind of dangerous wildfire that can run through here, so by getting rid of it under a controlled situation it eliminates any kind of problems we would have say lightning struck or someone else decided to light it. And as far as grass, it gives the bison and longhorn on the refuge some grass to actually eat and get nourishment off of," Natho said.

The controlled burn is actually good training for the crews who traveled to take care of it.

"It's what we're trained to do so we love to get out and put a little fire on the ground and keep our skills proficient and just have a little fun in a controlled environment when you're not worried about houses or structures being in the way," Morris said.

The crews will monitor the fire 24 hours each day through the rest of the week to ensure it does not spark back up and get out of control.

Wildlife officials say they try to conduct controlled burns in each area once every 3 to 5 years. The next controlled burn will likely be around Mount Scott next January or February.

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