Tahlequah Fire Department dealing with arson grass fires along rural roads near Park Hill

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - As he drove home Thursday afternoon, Gary Sizemore stopped along Murrel Road in Park Hill to ask what caused a grass fire near his house. He assumed it was a cigarette, not an arsonist.

"Makes me nervous because we have cattle and everything else that could be really damaged, killed or whatever," Sizemore said. "So that is scary to think there might be arsonists throwing fires."

Considering that Sizemore's line of work involves driving a truck bed full with fire extinguishers, he knows of the dangers that come with battling grass fires. He even warns against anyone battling a grass fire in their backyard.

"Grass fires they can move so fast," he said. "That it can actually overwhelm you and possibly kill you. So I never recommend fighting a grass fire. I recommend calling the fire department."

That is when Tahlequah Fire Department Captain Casey Baker responds. He said lately his department has been very busy, responding to 15 arson grass fires over the past month.

It is just the most recent episode of arson fires according to Baker, in an off and on battle around the area over the past four years.

"We will be doing it for three or four months and then it just stops," Baker said. "Then it is six months later and it picks up again."

So far none of the grass fires have burned more than an acre of land, or caused large amounts of property.

Firefighters have been able to quickly put out each grass fire and avoided other emergencies happening at the same time, but the fear is that that could change.

"Anytime there is a fire, a continuous call over the same day or same period of time, it is going to put a strain on us," Baker said.

Sizemore's concern is that the next fire could quickly grow with plenty of open land and brush in the Park Hill area and the ground drying out after a very wet December.

"Yeah, this could really take off super fast," Sizemore said pointing at a field by his home. "Especially with the way the wind is blowing right now."

That's why Tahlequah firefighters are requesting everyone remain on alert in the area. The only vague description they have of anyone responsible for the fires, is that they might be driving a white truck. The size or model is unknown. 

Anyone with information on the fires is asked to call the Tahlequah Fire Dept. at 918-456-2424 or the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office at 918-456-2583.

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