OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's infestation of the Eastern red cedar was part of the reason a recent wave of wildfires caused so much destruction, an Oklahoma City legislator said this week.
State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, said the trees were firebombs waiting to explode and, when coupled with the recent drought, made the problem worse for homeowners and firefighters. He said the trees helped spread fire to more than 103,200 acres.
“Our thoughts are with the family that lost a loved one and of the others who lost property and of the valiant firefighters who risk everything to protect us all,” Morrissette said in a media statement.
Morrissette said the Eastern red cedar tree is taking its toll on state resources.
Each year in the U.S., about 90 firefighters die in the line of duty, he said. Of those, 60 percent are volunteer firefighters, who in Oklahoma struggle with Eastern red cedar and limited resources 100 percent of the time.
Morrissette said the state House of Representatives would host an interim study on how to effectively harvest the trees on Sept. 6. He said the goal was to link landowners who have registered with the state Eastern Red Cedar Registry Board to an inmate-run harvesting program.
He said the program would be for both public and private lands.
A public hearing will be held at the state Capitol on Oct. 10. Morrissette said the meeting will give citizens the opportunity to meet with state leaders about the Eastern red cedar issue.
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