For many of us, the past couple of months’ news, images, and videos of wildfires raging out of control in Australia are an uncomfortable reminder of the potential for similar disasters much closer to home. Fortunately, Oklahoma’s state agencies make numerous free resources readily available to help each and every one of us do our part to prevent and prepare for wildfires.
Oklahoma Forestry Services (OFS) maintains a Daily Situation Reports webpage with links to statewide, regional, and national fire situation reports. Free email subscriptions to these updates are available.
The page also contains information on burn bans, fire weather and fuel conditions, and fire weather watches and red flag warnings. With all these resources at your fingertips, it should be a snap to keep up to date on what the fire risks are in your area from day to day.
Armed with that knowledge, what can you do to keep yourself and your property secure and safe from fire? There again, OFS has you covered. Their Oklahoma Firewise page connects to the Ready, Set, Go program, which offers a 12-page guide packed with valuable tips and checklists for making homes and properties as fireproof as possible.
Any structure within a mile of a wildfire can be at risk of combusion due to airborne embers. The guide explains how to create “defensible space” – the area around a structure that “creates a sufficient buffer to slow or halt the spread of wildfire to a structure.” Recommendations include sweeping leaf litter and cleaning gutters, creating gaps between low shrubs and the branches of taller trees, and keeping grass trimmed to a maximum height of 4 inches.
Should the worst come to pass, the guide also details how to prepare and execute an evacuation plan.
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) offers similar information in at-a-glance format in a free infographic.
Rural life teaches the importance of working with neighbors, and OFS’ fire preparedness materials take that into account as well. Taking preparation to the next level, their Firewise Communities program offers a comprehensive set of resources to help communities develop wildfire preparedness plans.
These resources include not only forms and templates to follow in developing plans, but also links to grants and cost-share opportunities. They also offer concrete examples, in the form of completed plans of other communities that are already participating in this and similar programs around the state and nation.
Bring out the Smokey Bear in you, and take advantage of these great fire preparedness resources before the next ominous cloud of smoke appears over the horizon.