Woodward, Okla. —
The Fourth of July holiday kept Woodward area firefighters busy throughout the night as fireworks ignited multiple fires across the county.
Todd Finley, assistant fire chief, said since July 1 there has been 32 grass fires in Woodward County caused by fireworks. But the vast majority of those fires occurred on the night of July 4.
There were a total of 22 fires on Independence Day, Finley said, with most occurring between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.
"There were more fires than we had resources to send to fires," he said. "This year was a bad year."
Finley said they had to call for help from several area fire departments, with men and units sent from Mooreland, Sharon, Mutual, Fort Supply, Fargo, the Ellis County Strike Team and Harper County.
Three of the biggest fires occurred on Hanks Trail by the Church of Christ, north on Highway 34 and on Trunkline Road which was actually in Ellis County, he said.
"The one over by the Church of Christ was really concerning us because the amount of potential structures (that could be damaged)," he said.
The assistant fire chief said efforts to extinguish these larger fires were somewhat hampered because units had to be sent out to fight several other smaller fires before returning to the bigger blazes.
"It caused a lot of problems trying to coordinate the amount of vehicles to the amount of calls," Finley said.
CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LIABILITIES POSSIBLE
Many of the fires were started by county roads and state highways, Finley said, noting that it is illegal to shoot fireworks off from roadways. He said they also received many reports of people shooting fireworks off into fields, which then caught on fire. The assistant fire chief said that is considered arson, and those who were responsible could potentially face criminal charges.
While it is unrealistic to think every case will be prosecuted, he said officials do have tag numbers, vehicle descriptions and even names in some cases that will be turned over to the Woodward County Sheriff's Office for further investigation.
Finley said another thing to remember is that if a fire is started on your property and spreads to someone else's, it will not be considered a crime but you could still be held liable through a civil case.