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For more information: 

Morgan Vance, Chief of Communications

Morgan.vance@ag.ok.gov

December 14, 2021

ODAFF Encourages Livestock Owners to Prepare for Wildfires

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – With conditions lining up for severe wildfires in western and northwestern Oklahoma, we ask livestock owners to make plans and prepare to save their livestock in the case of a wildfire beginning near their property. Due to extended dry weather, warmer than normal temperatures, and lower than normal humidity coupled with expected very high winds fire danger is very high.  You can see the most recent Fire Situation Report here:  https://ag.ok.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Fire-Situation-Report-12-26-21.pdf and can sign up for text alerts for fire situation reports here: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/OKDAFF/subscriber/new?qsp=OKDAFF_1.

We recommend moving livestock to a central location where they can be loaded to move to another location. It’s very important to get them out of pastures that have a buildup of fire-fuel as those pastures can burn very quickly and can outrun and burn over groups of livestock.  

Understanding and identifying your risk to wildfires is the first step in potentially limiting their impact on your home, farm, or livestock. The following lists provide suggestions to mitigate wildfire risk and to respond and recovery after a wildfire has impacted your family. 

WILDFIRES AND YOUR LIVESTOCK

Livestock can be lost, injured, or killed during a wildfire. Producers can take the following actions to protect their livestock before a wildfire occurs and begin to recovery after a wildfire has passed.

Before a Wildfire

  • Maintain detailed livestock records.
    • Possible indemnity payments may be based on verifiable livestock records.
    • Records should be backed up in multiple locations, including digitally.
    • Records should be kept for multiple years of production.
    • Include the location of animals and fences on your property.
  • Use clearly distinguishable identification methods.
    • Make sure animals have some form of permanent identification (ear tags, tattoos, electronic microchips, brands, etc.).
    • Pictures of animals, especially high-value animals such as horses, should also be saved.
  • Employ land use practices that discourage fire spread.
    • Limit weeds, debris, highly flammable trees and bushes in fencerows.
    • Remove woody debris piles in a timely manner.
    • Remove non-native species that may not be suited for your environment.
    • During times of high fire danger or dormant vegetation, practice general fire prevention.

During a Wildfire

  • Above all, ensure the safety of your family and self in a wildfire situation.
  • If it can be done safely, allow for animal movement.
    • This could mean opening gates, cutting fences, or herding livestock into areas of lower fire risk (e.g. wheat pasture).
  • Pro-actively corral animals and be prepared for movement.
    • During a Red Flag Warning, some animals such as horses could be corralled to allow for fast movement.
    • If you have a vehicle designated for moving livestock, consider having it hitched to a trailer in a position to quickly load and evacuate animals.
    • Only consider this option if you have ample time. Once you leave your property, do not return until told to do so by first responders.
  • Communicate with neighbors and/or first responders.
    • If animals are left on your property after you evacuate, let neighbors and first responders know to be looking for your type of animal.
  • Use emergency identification methods.
    • If animals are set loose, you can be creative with short-term identification methods.
    • Some producers have used spray paint to add personal identification markers to animals set loose during a wildfire scenario.

After a Wildfire

  • Document livestock losses.
    • Take pictures of dead livestock where they lay.
    • Document the location of livestock where they are found.
    • Do not move livestock until given the OK by insurance or local, state, or federal authorities.
  • Practice safe and humane euthanasia methods.
    • Animals may be severely injured after a wildfire and need to be humanely euthanized.
    • Work with local officials to determine the safest and most humane means of euthanasia.
  • Dispose of carcasses.
    • After documentation has taken place, check with local or state authorities for proper disposal methods (e.g. burial, rendering, composting, etc.)
  • Accept emotional or mental health assistance.
    • Losing livestock can be a traumatic experience. Accept emotional or mental health resources that may be available after an incident.
    • Seek out help for dealing with long-term emotional stress.
    • Understand that grieving is a natural process after experiencing a major disaster.
  • Apply for federal assistance.
    • Federal assistance related to wildfire losses may be available depending on the scope of the incident. This information will be available from your local extension agent or FSA office.

WILDFIRES AND YOUR FARM

A wildfire can significantly disrupt your farming or ranching operation, both during and after an event. By taking steps before a wildfire, this disruption can be limited and recovering from a major incident may be expedited.

Before a Wildfire

  • Practice proper rangeland management.
    • Clear brush or debris piles on an annual basis.
    • Limit growth and spread of highly volatile plant life such as cedar trees.
    • Keep fence rows and ditches from being overgrown with seasonal weeds, trees, or bushes.
    • If applicable, practice safe seasonal controlled burns.
  • Store equipment in safe locations.
    • Store fuel, chemicals, tractors, trucks, and other flammable equipment on ground that is fire resistant.
    • Maintain a fire-resistant plot for this purpose.
  • Keep up-to-date records.
    • Maintain equipment, chemical, and hay/forage inventories.
    • Take regularly updated pictures of farm equipment and structures for reference in case of a loss.
    • Back up your records off site or in a digital location.
  • Protect hay or forage supplies.
    • If possible, do not store all of your hay, forage, or feed supplies in the same location.
    • Much like your home, create and maintain a defensible space around any barns or feed storage structures.
    • Limit weed and grass growth around hay that is stored outdoors.
  • Alter day-to-day activities.
    • Avoid burning on days with high fire danger.
    • Do not use welders during windy and dry conditions.
    • If you are burning, take precautions to create fire breaks and let your local fire department know when and where you will be burning.

During a Wildfire

  • Listen to local officials.
    • While efforts can be taken to minimize on farm losses during a fire, the most important step is to listen to local officials for evacuation notices.
    • If an evacuation order is given, leave immediately.
    • After evacuation, let firefighters know about any potential hazardous materials on your property that may be impacted by fire – such as farm chemicals, diesel, pressurized cylinders, or highly combustible materials such as hay or forage.
  • Move equipment.
    • If time permits, equipment can be moved to ground that is either fire-resistant or concrete.
  • Assist with water access.
    • Rural firefighting efforts often struggle with access to adequate water supply. Notify first responders in advance of accessible fill sites on your property.
  • Build fire breaks.
    • If it can be done safely, creating fire breaks on your property using a plow, disc, or other implement can slow or stop the spread of fire.
    • Only consider this option if fire behavior and spread rates are somewhat predictable. In some cases, fire behavior will be so extreme that this is not a viable option.

After a Wildfire

  • Contact your insurance agent for farm related losses.
  • Take pictures and document damage to equipment, crops, or structures.
    • After a fire, take pictures noting the date, time, and location that the damage occurs. In a widespread incident, it may be several days before insurance adjusters can make individual visits – pictures create ground truth for what happened and when.
  • Be careful moving damaged structures or burned hay.
    • Wooden structures that have been damaged or destroyed by a wildfire may smolder for days or weeks after the initial fire is over.
    • Moving or removing hay that has been tightly stacked can lead to reignition once bales are exposed to oxygen.
  • Determine eligibility for federal assistance.
    • Federal assistance related to wildfire losses may be available depending on the scope of the incident. This information will be available from your local extension agent or FSA office\