Kittie Richardson's home sits where Oklahoma City's sprawling urban landscape meets its rural fringe.
The brush and trees on the outskirts of the neighborhood make it a perfect spot for a dangerous wildfire. But you don't have to tell her that.
A wildfire surrounded her home near SE 29 and Choctaw Road in the past, she said.
Firefighters brought in brush pumpers with 3,000-gallon tanks to knock down the blaze.
If the scenario repeats itself this year, she'll be ready for it.
On April 18, Richardson attended a “Targeting Wild Land Fires” presentation hosted by the Oklahoma City Fire Department at Harmony Christian Church in Choctaw.
At community events like this one, the department is reaching out to help residents prepare for wildfire season, Battalion Chief Tim Adams said.
There are two wildfire seasons in Oklahoma: late winter through early spring and summer, said Gary McManus, a climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.
Except for a portion of the Panhandle and the southwest part of the state, the majority of Oklahoma is no longer in a drought, McManus said.
But the lush green field and trees may give residents a false sense of
All that vegetation could make good fuel for dangerous fires later in the summer, he said.
“If it does dry out, there will be a lot of fuel there available for fire,” McManus said.
Experts don't expect the summer will be as hot and dry as 2011, but nothing is certain, McManus said.
There are equal chances the summer will be hotter than normal, cooler than normal, or just average.
“We do know, in general, it's probably going to be hot, because that's what happens in Oklahoma. And it'll probably be dry. That's just the law of averages,” he said.
How to prepare
Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant said residents can help fireproof homes by doing a few basic things: keep the grass and trees trimmed, keep shrubs and trees away from the residence, and store firewood and other combustible materials away from the home.
After her harrowing wildfire experience, Richardson fireproofed her property by clearing lots of combustible red cedar trees, cutting down bushes next to the house and moving firewood into a shed away from the home.
During the April 18 presentation, fire department educators recommended residents turn on sprinkler systems or water down roofs when there is a wildfire in the area.
Time to leave
“When do you quit watering down your house and boogie out?” Richardson asked.
“When you hear the recommended evacuation, that's the time to leave,” Adams said.
The program offered other recommendations for making one's home and yard less flammable.
If it's time to get a new roof, siding or a fence, choosing a less combustible material than wood will help mitigate the fire risk, Adams said.
For siding, aluminum, metal or stucco are options; for roofs, heavy-
Time is of the essence, Adams said. When the combination of no rainfall for an extended period of time, low humidity, hot temperatures and hot winds hit, it will be too late to take fire prevention measures if fire strikes.
“The combination of those four things creates a perfect storm for wild land fire,” he said.
“You have to do this stuff now. You can't wait until the season is here and the fire is rolling into your house to do it.”
TO LEARN MORE
The Oklahoma City Fire Department will schedule meetings with community groups that want more information about how to prepare for a wildfire, Battalion Chief Tim Adams said. For more information, call 297-3318.