Drought brings fire, peril

By SAVANNAH TILLMAN
Student Writer

Fires continue to pose a serious threat across western Oklahoma.

Last Wednesday, sparks ignited west of Ridgway Road, in Alva,  caused 117 acres of land damage. As firefighters approached the scene, clouds of smoke arose, and flames burned fast. With the heavy winds, the fire continued to grow.

Volunteers aided in the efforts to end the fire. Firefighters from Green Leaf, Capron, Dacoma, and Burlington, along with Woods County road graders, bulldozers, and private dozers from Bates Farms assisted the Alva Fire Department. Air support was on its way to aid in the fire that continued near Woodward, Okla., when the call came that a fire had started west of Alva. Rerouting north, they began to pour powder retardant on the flames.

Alva residents watched in concern for their homes and their property. Many residents along Ridgway Road and nearby locations chose to evacuate in case the fire spread, while others stayed.

Kirk Trekell, Alva Fire Chief, said, “We kept close watch on the fire to assure that it would not put Alva residents in harm’s way.”

With much effort, firefighters managed to get the fire under control and not lose a single house to the wind-driven flame. The cause of the spark is not certain, but Trekell is positive the fire started from a limb that fell on the highline wire. There was a power surge just moments before the fire started, and that, along with a limb on electrical wire, could have been just enough for a spark.

Mayor of Alva, Kelly Parker, said, “The Alva Fire Department and other nearby departments and volunteers did a fantastic job at protecting the town and its residents. Dedication to get us to this point has been proven by the hard work the Alva Fire Department has done for our town and our state.”

This fire is not the only fire that Oklahoma has seen in recent weeks. Flames have spread along the north-west region of our state and even into Kansas. The fire that started at Anderson creek burned 400,000 acres of land, destroyed countless homes, and wiped out herds of cattle. The fire lasted almost two weeks and is still under investigation. Numerous other fires have been started and along with the aid of wind, continue to cause much concern.

What could be causing these fires to start and to spread so viciously like they have? The Woods County Burn Association was created by ranchers to eradicate the cedar trees. The Red Cedar grows all over Oklahoma, and does so at a fast rate.

Trekell said, “The cedar trees are like pouring gas on a flame. When the cedar trees catch on fire, the fire spreads rapidly.”

This association hopes to put an end to the cedar tree and potentially prevent fires from getting out of control and doing more damage. Control burns of the cedar trees have been ruled out because of the recent fires.  They spend months building fire breaks in order to properly dispose of cedar trees.

“We should educate ourselves about the Red Cedar in hopes to eradicate it and prevent future disasters,” Trekell said.