A swift-moving grass fire threatened homes Wednesday and burned hundreds of acres as it danced its way across a one-mile section from Benson Park Road to Hardesty Road, west of the SH 9A area.

© Ed Blochowiak
Firefighters battle a grass fire in Pottawatomie County Wednesday as it swiftly moves across a one-mile section from Benson Park Road to Hardesty Road. No damages or injuries were reported.
Earlsboro Fire Chief Shane Rawls said nearly 30 firefighters joined forces to battle the blaze, with crews working all day and into the evening before getting that fire under control. Rawls estimated late Wednesday night that the wildfire burned at least 300 acres and maybe even up to 400 acres.

There is currently a burn ban in Pottawatomie County, so sheriff's deputies also are investigating the possibility that the burning of trash may have sparked the blaze, Undersheriff Travis Palmer confirmed.

The blaze ignited about 100 yards south of Benson Park Road and moved northwest.

Rawls said the grass fire burned through the one-mile section west of SH 9A, and although it wasn't a wide fire throughout, the blaze involved a very large area.

Tecumseh Fire Chief Aaron Williams also helped work incident command at the scene and said the fire started around the 47000 block of Benson Park Road before it quickly burned to the northwest and jumped Benson Park Road.

"It spread one mile," Williams said, adding crews were able to get the fire under control just shy of Hardesty Road, with his estimates showing that at least 167 acres burned.

At one point during the fire, Williams said there was an area where about 10 homes, including a day care, were in danger, but crews managed to divert the blaze.

Rawls, who said there was some hectic moments, said Wednesday night there were no reports of any damages to structures.

The fire consumed brush in several wooded areas along with many hay bales in pastures, and the fire also took its toll on some equipment as two Tecumseh fire trucks had to be towed from the fire area, including a grass rig that hit something in the terrain that punctured the radiator.

The fire was located in the Earlsboro fire district. Rawls said Earlsboro had 14 firefighters at the scene who were assisted by crews from Tecumseh, Shawnee, Bethel Acres, as well as a tanker from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, along with state forestry officials.

While crews had difficulty getting ahead of the blaze, when it hit areas of shorter grass, firefighters were able to contain it.

Both Rawls and Williams said a grass fire occurred in the same exact area back in 2012.

Williams said the fire two years ago started in about the same place and moved across the same areas before it was stopped near the same location along Hardesty Road.

Rawls said all indications point to the burning of trash as sparking this blaze.

Pottawatomie County is currently under a 7-day burn ban, which makes it unlawful to do any burning.

With such extreme fire dangers in place, Rawls said people need to stop burning and "use common sense." He worries that many residents may not even realize there's burn ban in place, but even without a ban, it wouldn't be advisable to do any type of burning in these conditions.

Williams added that without a burn ban, it would already be illegal to burn trash in areas where residents have access to a trash pickup service, as most in this area do.

To be fire ready, firefighters remind residents keep grass cut short and to remove leaves and other items from around their homes.

And even though there's some snow in the forecast next week, the conditions are so dry that it may not help, fire crews said, as sunshine and wind will dry out the grass quickly.

Currently, 23 of Oklahoma's 77 counties are under a burn ban, including Pottawatomie County and nearby Seminole County.

Oklahoma's state forester says high winds and low humidity have increased the danger of wildfires in the state, and conditions are expected to worsen.

State Forester George Geissler, who said residents should avoid any outdoor activity that could ignite a wildfire, also wants to remind people that sparks from vehicles dragging chains or driving on a rim after experiencing a flat tire can start a roadside fire.

Local firefighters also urge smokers to be cautious and not discard smoking materials, which are often the cause of roadside grass fires.