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AM NewsBrief: Apr. 8, 2024

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Monday, Apr. 8, 2024.

Firefighters Injured As Western Oklahoma Wildfire Grows To 5,000 Acres

Two firefighters are injured and about 5,000 acres have burned from an out-of-control wildfire near Woodward in the northwestern part of the state.

The blaze is largely uncontained thanks to dry and windy conditions in western Oklahoma. No occupied structures have been lost. Crews have been battling the fire in Woodward, Woods, and Blaine Counties.

Some people were evacuated, but most evacuation orders have since been lifted.

Widespread forecast rain Monday evening into Tuesday is expected to bring some relief to first responders.

Oklahoma Wildfires Cause $33M in Damage, Cattle Losses

New figures are showing the devastation from wildfires that were finally contained last month. The Oklahoma State University Extension recently released data on the fires’ impact on cattle and infrastructure.

Extension specialists estimate about $33 million dollars in total property damage from a spate of western Oklahoma fires earlier in the year. That amounts to roughly $215 dollars per acre.

One of the largest cost categories is for fencing.

In all, about 430 miles of fences were lost and almost 275 miles of fencing need repairs. Ellis County, the county with the highest number of acres burned, has almost $7 million in expected fencing costs

Although thousands of cattle have died or are displaced, extension experts say the average person probably won’t feel the fires at the grocery store.

Oklahoma Legislature Considers Bill Adding Fees, Background Checks For Signature Collectors

A bill that would add a $1,000 fee and require signature collectors to get a background check is making its way through the Oklahoma legislature.

Critics say it will add barriers to the state's initiative petition process, which has been used to push several populist issues like legalizing medical marijuana and expanding Medicaid.

House Bill 1105 passed a legislative committee last week.

Sen. Julie Daniels of Bartlesville is sponsoring the measure. She defended the fee and background check in a panel hearing.

"We're trying to preserve the integrity and increase the security and make sure that, everything that ends up going for the vote of the people is absolutely above board," said Daniels.

It is now eligible to be heard on the Senate floor but would have to go back to the House for procedural reasons before reaching the governor's desk.

Will Rogers World Airport Breaks Ground On New Hangar

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday for a new hangar at Will Rogers World Airport.

Aviation services company AAR is building an 80-thousand square foot maintenance and repair facility to accommodate all 737 airplanes.

The company plans to hire for 200 new full time jobs.

The facility is expected to be operational in early 2026.

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