Chief offers tips to stay ‘Wildfire Safe’

  • Published
  • By Terry Ford
  • Tinker Fire Chief
April 9, 2009, doesn't get as much press as May 3, 1999, but was a devastating date for Central Oklahoma all the same. Oklahoma is well-known for tornados and severe weather, but wildfire poses a significant threat to our community as well.

That day in April was a windy one as those affected by the fire storm will remember. There was low humidity and vegetation was dry; perfect weather for wildfire. A small fire started near Post Road and 29th Street and eight hours later, had spread more than 12 miles and destroyed more than 100 structures.

Tinker Fire Department and dozens of other agencies fought the most destructive wildfire in Central Oklahoma history for nearly two days. While most not directly affected by it don't think about this fire often, I am reminded daily of its impact as its path was nearly the exact route I drive to and from work each day. I see some of the devastated homes being rebuilt (many have not) and the scars left from a fire that destroyed hundreds of acres of trees that withstood tornados and ice storms, only to be wiped out by fire.

Why this trip down memory lane? Conditions are ripe this season for a repeat of these fires. Dry vegetation, low precipitation, and the famous Oklahoma winds are all in line to provide my staff a busy season.

It's important for you to be aware of the potential of these fires and some simple ways you can be prepared in the event of a wildfire.

Here are some tips to make your property "Wildfire Safe:"

· Trim trees so there is a minimum of 5 feet between branches.

· The Eastern Red Cedar is a serious fire threat. Consider removing these trees from your

· Make sure trees are limbed at least 10 feet up to reduce the likelihood of a fire getting into the tops of the trees.

· Keep vegetation, including the lawn around the home, low and green.

· Eliminate fire fuels -- leaves, dead branches, combustible materials -- within 30 feet of any structure.

· Beauty bark will smolder. Use it away from the home

· Trim vegetation so the fire department can have safe access to your home, clearly identify points of access for fire vehicles, especially in rural areas.

· Never park vehicles, including recreational vehicles, on dry vegetation. The exhaust system can get hot enough to start a fire.

· Be sure to have a working, approved spark arrester on your off-road vehicles.

· Only dispose of lit smoking materials in ashtrays so that they will not ignite another source, e.g. cup of water.

· Understand the rules and regulations regarding open burning in your community, and NEVER burn on windy days.



Call the Tinker Fire Prevention Office at 734-3981 for more information on a home wildfire prevention assessment.

Work with your local fire and emergency services organization to make your area wildfire safe.