Winter grassfire danger

Comanche, Co.--With all the snow and ice we've had since'd think it would be enough to relieve our dry conditions.  But it hasn't.

In fact, grass fires are popping up all over.

Comanche County Emergency Management counts 30 grass fires since the first of the year--and that's just in the county.

That's more than they'd like to see this time of year.  The threat of fire will stay with us unless we get more moisture.

Since Thanksgiving, all the ice, snow and rain we've had totals about 3-and a quarter inches of moisture.

But because it wasn't continuous or regular rainfall...7 News Chief Meteorologist Pat Walker says it wasn't enough to make an impact on the drought.

It's a drought we've been living with for about two years.  "We would have to have four or five years of average rainfall or two or three well above to get things back the way it should be or back to average, " Walker said.

And because of it, Emergency Management Deputy Director Chloe Lewis says dispatchers and volunteer fire crews have been busy-- putting fires out like this one on Highway 7--the one near our station.  "What we've had is a couple of year continual fires. So it's been kind of hard on our firefighters because they are on alert year round rather than a few times a year, " she said.

Lewis says most of the fires they've worked on are because of cigarette butts--people just tossing them out of their cars.

Another problem is controlled burns and the wind.  Lewis says most of us don't realize just how dry the vegetation is.

We think just because snow and ice sat on the ground for days---we're in the clear.  But that's not so.

Walker says the vegetation is normally dry this time of year---so even though there is moisture under the ground, it's not getting up to the dormant grass or leaves on top.

The dormant grass just doesn't accept it.   "You can put your foot on the ground or your knee and it will get wet. Because the water in the soil. But when the vegetation is dormant it doesn't really soak in that much water," Walker said.

Walker says the answer, of course, is to get moisture--and lots of it.  And he doesn't expect the fire danger to change until spring when things start to turn green on their own.

Right now, Southwest Oklahoma is not under any type of burn ban.  But the emergency management center warns folks not to toss their cigarette butts outside.

And if you are going to do a control burn--- call them in advance to let them know.  That number is  580-355-9303.

That way they'll be on standby should something happen.