Oklahoma campaign begins to combat wildfires
As urban sprawl continues in the Oklahoma City and surrounding cities and towns, nearly all fire departments are faced with the same problem: wildland-urban interface areas.
Fires can be very hard to put out when they begin in semirural areas with big lots, small roads, homes mixed in with dry brush and limited fire hydrants.
That's what happened during the last days of August, when fires in northeast Oklahoma City burned across 3,000 acres, charring 30 homes and a church, fire officials said Thursday as they urged residents in these so-called “wildland-urban interface” areas to take precautions before the next fire breaks out.
Oklahoma City Deputy Fire Chief Marc Woodard said the financial toll from the recent fires, while undoubtedly “well into the millions at this point,” is still being calculated and that the cause of the blaze remains under investigation.
In March, 31 homes were torched in Harrah when an electric fence ignited some dry grass and wood chips near Reno Avenue and Luther Road. On April 9, 2009, 58 homes in Choctaw and 12 in Midwest City were consumed by wildfires.
Woodward, who's been an Oklahoma City firefighter for nearly 30 years, said the wildland-urban interface problem is growing with each passing year as neighborhoods expand. His counterpart in Norman, Deputy Chief Jim Bailey, said his city is facing the same problem.
“About 70 percent of our city falls into the wildland-urban category,” Bailey said. “People want to move out to the countryside and live under the trees and away from neighbors, but that can be dangerous for homeowners – and firefighters – when these wildfires flare up.”
Woodard said “60 to 70 percent” of the land in Oklahoma City would be considered “wildland-urban interface.” And like Norman, he sees more and more people moving into what used to be rural areas.
News Photo Galleriesview all
- 34808Oklahoma weather: Crews work to clear storm damage in Oklahoma City as the state braces for severe weather Sunday.
- 28627Oklahoma Severe Storm Updates
- 6992Wild hogs continue to be a growing menace across Oklahoma
- 6680OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti won't amnesty Kendrick Perkins
- 4639Tornadoes hit Kan., Okla.; no injuries reported
- 3921OKC Thunder: Thunder trio praise fans before potential departures
- 3855Student shot dead during botched home invasion