“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin

Fires can happen almost any time on the Southern Plains. Dry conditions and high winds always help spur the risk of out-of-control blazes, but from November to March when plants are largely dormant, we face especially high wildfire danger.

Just like it’s never a good plan to try to build a boat during a flood, its not a good strategy to wait until you see smoke on the horizon to prepare for wildfire. With that in mind, I wanted to pass on some suggestions from Oklahoma State University about how we can better prepare our homes, ranches and farmsteads for the dangers posed by wildfire.

Here are a few of their suggestions:

  • Survey the status of your home, out buildings and equipment. If you were in the path of a wildfire and help was delayed or not available, how would the property handle the blaze?
  • Keep the area around your home or farmstead mowed down short, and make sure any kind of flammable shrubs or trees are a safe distance from your home or buildings.
  • Prune the limbs of your trees to prevent fire spreading to the crown of trees.
  • Clean up other flammable items around your home and buildings, including firewood. Stack or store firewood a safe distance away from them.
  • Consider fire entry points of your buildings. Keep windows and doors shut on barns to prevent the entry of flying embers.
  • Identify bare ground or a gravel area where equipment can be stored in case of a fire.
  • Spread out a hay supply — don’t store all your hay in one spot.
  • Develop a livestock contingency plan. Determine places where animals can be moved to, such as a trampled down area or a corral, until the fire passes.
  • Check with your insurance company for details of current wildfire coverage. Make sure your policy is up to date and determine if the plan needs to be enhanced.

Remember also that wildfire isn’t just a rural issue. Suburban areas are at risk, too, especially those on the edge of metro areas where heavy fuel loads grow right up to the edge of housing developments. Also remember that the more you can do to reduce fuel load, the less risk we have for wildfire when conditions develop. Longer-term strategies like prescribed fire are helpful in controlling invasive species like eastern redcedar and reducing the amount of dry vegetation that can help fuel an out-of-control blaze.

For more information on what you can do to better prepare for wildfire, check out this article from Oklahoma State University Extension

Let’s try and stay ahead of the curve when it comes to wildfire preparedness. 'Tis the season after all.