Community Fire Assistance
During wild land fire situations OFS provides:
- Coordination of wildfire suppression aircraft for water/retardant delivery;
- Coordination of state incident management teams and county wildland task forces through the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management
- Providing aerial tactical support for ground crews;
- Direct suppression assistance from our own wildland fire crews using the latest Type VI Engines and specially designed wildland fire bulldozers; and
- Leadership and command for emergency incidents (OFS fields the state’s only Type II Incident Management Team)
In order to build and improve our state’s firefighting capacity, OFS works with fire departments across the state through our Community Fire Assistance Program:
- Assisting fire departments through our Rural Fire Defense Program
- Administering numerous grant opportunities for fire departments and communities,
- Providing training through our partnership with OSU’s Fire Service Training program and
- Developing and implementing technical tools assistance such as our online fire reporting system and web-based State Wildfire Risk Assessment
Oklahoma has experienced a surge in home construction on its rural landscape and in its small towns and cities. These areas of growth are referred to as the wildland/urban interface. Residents within these areas are surrounded by fuels that, should they ignite, present a significant risk to their homes and property. Most rural residents depend on their local volunteer fire departments to protect their property from loss.
There are over 900 volunteer fire departments in communities of less than 10,000 people in our state. Since 1980, Oklahoma Forestry Services’ Rural Fire Defense program has targeted these smaller communities and provided assistance to their fire departments with the goal to improve the capacity of local fire departments to provide safe and effective fire protection.
Oklahoma’s Rural Fire Defense Program includes:
- Technical advice and assistance provided through Rural Fire Coordinators;
- Funding opportunities through Oklahoma’s Operational Grant and 80/20 Grant programs;
- Firefighter supplies and equipment through the Rural Fire Equipment Revolving Fund
All OFS Community Fire Assistance Programs are currently managed by Andy James, Fire Management Chief & Assistant Director
Annually OFS distributes funding to rural fire departments serving communities with populations less than 10,000 that depend either fully or partially on volunteer firefighters. These grants are authorized by Governor Kevin Stitt and funded by the Oklahoma Legislature. Grant funds can be used for purchasing items such as firefighting equipment, insurance premiums, equipment maintenance and personal protective gear. For more details on Oklahoma’s Operational grants, such as how a department becomes eligible, we have prepared an OFS Fire Note.
Oklahoma’s Rural Fire Defense 80/20 Reimbursement Grant program provides funding to rural fire departments serving a population of less than 10,000 for rural fire department equipment purchases or construction. The grants provide reimbursement of 80% of the total amount of the project. Grant recipients receive reimbursement only after the purchase or construction costs have been paid by the recipient.
The 80/20 Grant applications are made usually available in July and are due by September 1st each year.
Click here for more information about 80/20 Reimbursement Grants.
The Rural Fire Equipment Revolving Fund makes firefighting supplies available at cost to rural fire departments across the state. Oklahoma Forestry Services is able to purchase many items in bulk quantities and at lower cost, which allows smaller departments to purchase their equipment with volume discount savings. Typically stocked items include: nozzles, shutoff valves and adapters, gloves and pumps.
Fire Departments can order by calling the OFS Community Fire Assistance office at 405-288-2385. Payment at the time of purchase is required.
In cooperation with the USDA, Forest Service, Oklahoma Forestry Services acquires federal property for use in its own fire suppression activities and to provide to rural fire departments for use in suppressing wildfires. Much of this property was originally purchased by the Department of Defense (DOD).
For rural fire departments such property can be a viable alternative to purchasing new equipment, especially for communities with little or no tax base. Federal property can be acquired under one of two distinct U.S. Forest Service programs – the Federal Excess Property Program (FEPP) and the Firefighter Property Program (FPP).
Since 1959, Oklahoma Forestry Services has been acquiring and placing FEPP with Fire Departments in Oklahoma. Any Oklahoma community, organized fire district, or fire department with an assigned or assumed fire suppression responsibility is eligible to receive federal excess property by agreeing to the terms of a Cooperative Fire Equipment Loan Agreement between the fire department and Oklahoma Forestry Services.
Beginning in 2007, OFS began acquiring excess Department of Defense property through the new Firefighter Property Program (FPP). The basic requirements to receive this property are the same as FEPP. However, once the equipment is placed in an operable state of service, OFS may pass title of the property to the cooperating fire department.
Upon receiving title, the fire department assumes ownership and must tag the vehicle just as if it were purchased. Unlike property acquired under FEPP, Federal Firefighter Program property may be sold by the fire department once it is no longer needed.
For more information on these programs contact our Community Fire Assistance Programs office at 405-288-2385.
Oklahoma Forestry Services believes it is critical for all firefighters to develop knowledge of initial and extended attack operations in both the wildland and wildland-urban interface in order to greatly enhance their safety and effectiveness. OFS personnel receive extensive training on these operations utilizing the methodology outlined by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG).
As Oklahoma’s lead agency for wildland fire suppression, our goal is to provide training information and opportunities to structural fire departments and wildland fire agencies across our state. We offer the following opportunities:
- Oklahoma Wildland Tailgate series is an informal training tool developed to facilitate discussions and hone wildland firefighting knowledge and skills. This quarterly publication is mailed to rural fire departments and wildland agencies and is also available to download.
- OFS offers the Wildland Training for Structural Firefighters, G-130. This course is designed to help structural firefighters learn the critical wildland firefighting skills needed to be safe and effective in either of two situations: when making an initial attack on a wildland fire in their jurisdiction or when working with state and federal wildland firefighting agencies.
- Oklahoma Forestry Services also partners with OSU Fire Service Training on additional firefighting and incident command training such as Wildland Engine Tactics, Aerial Firefighting Resources, Communications, etc. This can be accessed through the OSU Fire Service Training website.
- Want to work as a firefighter on federally managed wildfires? We lay out the four steps involved in attaining the qualifications necessary to receive your “Red Card” and be assigned to work on these wildfires.
Our Fire Department Fire Reporting Web Application is designed to collect and compile records for Oklahoma’s fire departments and provide a clearer picture of the state’s fire situation including a number of incidents, costs, severity, losses and threats. Authorized users can use this website to enter run data (wildfires, structure fires, EMT runs, etc.), track equipment and personnel costs, and view submitted fire reports. All Oklahoma fire departments are eligible to use the system free of charge.
- If you are a fire department wanting to apply to use the online system click here.
- If you are a fire department wanting to enter information into the system click here to log in.
- If you need instructions on how to utilize the site click here.
A secondary benefit of using this application is that it can be used to gather and assess information for individual and public assistance for a federally declared disaster. This process is typically both challenging and time-consuming for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Oklahoma Emergency Management, and other agencies. Incident information entered into the Fire Reporting System can easily be queried and summarized eliminating the need for additional paperwork on the part of the fire department.
Want more information? Call us at 405-522-6158.
Oklahoma Forestry Services is Oklahoma’s lead agency related to wildland fire prevention, protection and use.
What is Your Wildfire Risk?
Is your property in a condition that could survive a wildfire? Could firefighters easily get to a wildfire on your property?
If the answer to these questions is no or I don’t know, your property may be at high risk for a wildfire, which would have real financial consequences for you, your family, and your neighbors, as well as for the long-term health of your watershed and the area’s ecology. The degree of wildfire risk depends on both the probability of an ignition (for example, from lightning or human activity) and the potential for damage or harm (such as loss of trees, homes, or even lives). Recognizing that you may have a high wildfire risk is the first step in doing something about it.
The Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal (SouthWRAP) allows homeowners, community leaders, fire departments and decision-makers at all levels to work together to reduce wildfire risk threatening Oklahoma.
SouthWRAP is easy to use and has applications for the homeowner, community leaders, and fire/emergency management specialists.
Public Viewer – Lets users zoom to a place of interest, explore map themes and identify wildfire risk for a specific location on the map
Professional Viewer – Supports the community wildfire protection planning needs of government officials, hazard-mitigation planners and wildland fire professionals.
Community Editor – Allows approved users to create and manage wildfire assessments at the community level
Click here to access SouthWRAP
How You Can Prepare for Wildfire
Creating a Firewise home environment is an integral part of being ready. It involves understanding how a wildfire can impact your home, assessing your home for the hazards present, and proactively addressing these hazards to lower your wildfire risk.
Components of your assessment should include the construction materials used in your home and its design, your landscaping, the accessibility of your property to emergency personnel and your maintenance of a defensible space around your home.
Being Firewise is a way of life. Living Firewise means you pay attention to the amount of vegetation and other flammable materials near, beside, above or beneath your home. Being Firewise means that you take proactive steps to protect your home when you recognize a dangerous accumulation of flammable materials. Thinking Firewise means that you give thought to the flammability of construction materials when you are building, expanding or remodeling your home.
Firewise is the way smart Oklahomans live. It’s the way they protect their family and property.
Want to know more?
- 50 Ways to Make Your Home Firewise
- Wildfire: Preparing the Ranch and Farm
- Reduce the Vulnerability of Your Deck to Wildfire
- Exterior Sprinkler Systems to Help Protect Your Home
Creating Defensible Space
Three zones of defense are recommended against encroaching wildfire. Maintain a minimum distance of 100-150 feet around your house. Greater distances are recommended for homes on steep slopes or windswept exposures. The managed vegetation in these zones creates breaks in the fires path slowing advancing flames. Plants in each zone have a distinct function.
- Zone One (30-foot minimum from the perimeter of the house). Plant low-growing, fire-resistant plants including perennials, annuals, groundcover and grasses. Water regularly, especially during droughts and burn bans. Remove all dry plant litter.
- Zone Two (30-60 feet from the house) includes slow-growing drought-tolerant shrubs and ground covers to keep fire near ground level.
- Zone Three (60-150 feet from the house) requires removing over-growth and major pruning every three to five years. Native trees should be thinned. Specimen trees can be planted at the edge of the zone if they are well-tended. Keep an eye on any limbs that may come in contact with power lines. If you are not equipped to trim them, call the power company and let them know about the hazard.
Maintaining Your Firewise Home
Much of what can be considered being Firewise is just proper home maintenance. Cleaning up your yard, keeping the structures repaired, and checking the overall condition of your property can greatly improve your chances of survival.
Minimize early maturing grasses to reduce the potential for rapid surface fires. Mow and rake grasses during the growing season. Remove or thin shrubs. A good rule of thumb is to keep space between plants at least five times their height. Prune shrubs to maintain an open structure and prevent dense branching.
Prune tree branches to 10 feet or more above the ground to reduce the possibility of surface fires spreading into tree crowns. Thin trees to maintain at least 10 feet between the crowns. Remove understory trees or space widely.
Having a Firewise home begins with its construction. When building a new home or renovating an existing structure consider the flammability of the materials used. Click here to view a video with more information.
There are practical solutions that homeowners can apply to improving, maintaining and renovating their homes. Click on the video to the right to learn more about Firewise choices you can make when working on your home. Click here to view the video.
How Firewise is Your Landscape?
When Oklahoma’s heat intensifies and our lush green turns a crisp brown, consider how safe your landscape is in the event of wildfire.
First, remember this: All plants burn! However, some are more resistant to fire. Look for these characteristics in fire retardant plants: open branches, high moisture content in leaves, drought-tolerant, little or no seasonal accumulation of dead vegetation, and slow-growing (requires less pruning). For example, if after a charcoal briquette sparks a wildfire in your yard near your trees the grasses, pines, junipers, cedars and other evergreens will burn up quicker than an oak or maple tree.
Remember to remove dead limbs and other debris. Rid your trees of abandoned nests, dead limbs and other flammable material. Check your roof and other areas for debris. Don’t forget your gutters. Leaves and twigs collected here, especially on wood shingled roofs, are dangerous. In fact, in rural areas wood shingles are considered a serious hazard. Remove limbs that extend over your roof or those directly above or within 15 lateral feet of a chimney.
Properly space trees when you plant. If you live in the country, remember to carefully space your trees when planting. If a wildfire approaches, this practice helps to avoid a crown fire. Keep your trees pruned up six to 10 feet from the ground to avoid “ladder fuels”—vegetation that links grass to treetops. You may also want to give your home a firebreak, such as driveways, gravel walkways, sidewalks and paths. Another good firebreak is to maintain a green grassy strip with cool season grasses.
What to do when a Wildfire Approaches
If You Have Time:
- Call for help. Use a cell phone if your electric power has been interrupted.
- Close all entrances to your home and garage including windows, doors, garage doors, and vents.
- Close shutters, heavy drapes, Venetian blinds or other window coverings. Doing so helps to prevent sparks from blowing inside your house and igniting.
- Have tools and water accessible. Fill buckets and other bulk containers with water. Have a shovel, rake and long water hose accessible to firefighting crews.
- Dress to protect yourself. Wear cotton/woolen clothing including long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
- Wet down the roof. If your roof is combustible, wet it down with a hose. Place the ladder you use for this task on the side of the roof opposite the fire.
- Turn off the residential fuel. If you use natural gas or butane, turn it off at the tank or meter.
- Prepare the automobiles. Back as many vehicles as possible into the garage. Then close the door. In the event that you evacuate remember to close the garage door behind you as you leave. If you do not have a garage or if yours is full, park your vehicles heading in the direction of the evacuation route.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to make the decision to leave. We all want to keep our property from burning up, but never jeopardize the personal safety of you and your family.
- Evacuate the family. If evacuation becomes necessary, take your family and pets to a safe place.
Recovering from Wildfire
Wildfire is a disaster many forest owners fear. If you are reading this, it has probably happened to you or someone close to you. Fire may have burned all or part of your property, and you’re left wondering “What should I do now?”
The following document can give you some guidelines and issues property owners should consider following a wildfire.
Preparing Communities for Wildfire
Dangerous wildfires are common in Oklahoma. Within this hazardous fire environment, there are homes, subdivisions and entire communities that have been built in an area known to fire professionals as the wildland urban interface. However, many who live near woodland or grassland areas are ill prepared to survive an intense wildfire.
Our ability to save lives and property depends on preparation. Although we cannot “fire proof” the landscape, we can adopt a Ready, Set, Go approach. The Ready, Set, Go and Firewise Communities programs are collaborative outreach efforts to help individuals and communities be ready should a wildlfire threaten.
Communities located in the wildland urban interface or, WUI for short, face special wildfire risks. Many of the subdivisions and small communities surrounding our urban centers are considered WUI areas. Simply put, a WUI can be found anywhere the more manicured, controlled environment of the cities meets the countryside. In these areas, fires that start in the grass, brush and trees can quickly move into the fringes of the developed areas and burn down homes.
In worst-case scenarios like Midwest City in 2009 or Oklahoma City/Edmond in 2011, entire subdivisions can be impacted once a wildfire breaks into the community. The Firewise program helps to educate local leaders in the WUI about proactive steps they can take to protect their communities. OFS encourages communities to participate in the Oklahoma Firewise program by offering grants and free community assistance.
Many of Oklahoma’s communities already are participating in the program.
For more information on Oklahoma’s Firewise program or to find out how you or your community can participate, call our offices at 405-522-6158.
How Your Community Can Become Firewise
You and your neighbors can make a difference. Join Oklahoma’s Firewise Communities to make our state safer from wildland fire.
The five steps of Firewise recognition are:
- Develop a wildfire risk assessment and community wildfire preparedness plan.
- Form a board or committee, and create an action plan based on the assessment.
- Conduct a “Firewise Day” event.
- Invest a minimum of $2 per capita in local Firewise actions for the year.
- Submit an application to the OFS Firewise Coordinator.
Preparing Your Community for Wildland Fire
Oklahoma Forestry Services assists communities to assess their wildfire risk and develop Community Wildfire Protection Plans and Firewise Plans. These plans provide an assessment of the hazards present and provide a plan to lower the community’s wildfire risk through specific actions that will reduce the loss of property and improve the safety of residents and emergency responders. For assistance call 405-522-6158, an OFS Forester or your OFS Rural Fire Coordinator.
- Community Assessment Form
- Community Wildfire Preparedness Plan Booklet
- National Firewise Organization Website
- Interface South Website
- Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal
- 2021 Community Wildfire Protection Plan Information
- 2021 Community Wildfire Protection Plan Application
- 2021 Community Wildfire Protection Plan Development