Grant, OK -- Because of its efforts to reduce the vulnerability of homes and landscapes to wildfire, Grant has earned Firewise Communities/USA® recognition from the National Firewise Communities Program.
Partners in Grant’s Firewise efforts include: Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Grant School. Initial steps taken by the group began in February 2008. Oklahoma Forestry District Forester, Chris Joslin, worked with the community as they began assessing their wildfire risk and determining if individual property owners would be interested in doing their part to protect their homes and ranches. A formalized plan was developed to address identified safety concerns. Residents then worked together to implement the plan.
“We are grateful to Oklahoma Forestry Services for offering the Firewise Community grant program,” said Martina Pulliam, fire chief of Grant. “The community is starting to pull together and owners are cleaning up their places even though we have not had a wildland fire in a long time. The Firewise Program has truly made a difference here in Grant. The enthusiastic response from the ranchers and homeowners has been great!”
“The community of Grant, with leadership from their fire department is to be commended for taking a proactive role in preparing their community for possible wildfire,” said John Burwell, State Forester for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. “Grant is Oklahoma's second community recognized nationally as a Firewise Community. We hope that other communities in Oklahoma will follow their example of taking responsibility for lowering their risk of loss from wildfire.”
To receive Firewise Communities/USA recognition, Grant met a rigorous set of requirements. The community completed the following activities.
Cut and remove overgrown brush, trees and vegetation around the community. The county mowed right of ways and the Department of Corrections inmate crews removed brush and debris along Highway 109 east and west and along county roads.
Local property owners worked with Grant Volunteer Fire Department or Oklahoma Forestry Services to remove flammable vegetation from around their homes and other neighborhood structures.
A community meeting was held at the Grant School auditorium in April 2008. Wildfire awareness brochures were handed out and landowners were encouraged to establish defensible space around their homes and ranches. During the community meeting, Steve Mattax, Forest Protection Staff Forester with Oklahoma Forestry Services, explained other tactics that landowners could undertake to make their property more defensible from wildfire. These included raking and removing leaves and debris from around homes, stacking firewood at least 30 feet away from structures and paying attention to the storage of flammable and hazardous materials, such as propane tanks and lawn mower gas.
Grant Fire District held a Clean Up Day where they mowed, removed brush and debris in the most crucial areas of the community. They also sprayed fence lines with herbicide to control vegetation and disked around perimeters of property. All of these measures will make the community of Grant more defensible in the wake of an encroaching wildfire.
“Achieving Firewise recognition is not a quick or easy process. Grant has done an outstanding job of creating a local Firewise Task Force and implementing Firewise principles,” said Chris Joslin, District Forester with Oklahoma Forestry Services and Firewise board member. “By preparing homes, structures, and landscapes before a wildfire occurs, Grant has dramatically increased the chance that homes and structures will be protected when a wildfire occurs.”
Working through the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), state forestry agencies support the Firewise Communities/USA recognition effort. The program is a nationwide initiative that recognizes communities for taking action to protect people and properties from the risk of fire in the wildland/urban interface. This program is of special interest to small communities and neighborhood associations that are willing to mitigate against wildfire by adopting and implementing programs tailored to their needs. The communities create the programs themselves with cooperative assistance from state forestry agencies and local fire staff.
Fire-prone communities can work with local professionals to earn FirewiseCommunities/USA status by meeting the following criteria:
Enlist a wildland/urban interface specialist to complete a community assessment and create a plan that identifies agreed-upon achievable solutions to be implemented by the community.
Sponsor a local Firewise Task Force Committee, Commission or Department, which maintains the Firewise Communities/USA program and tracks its progress or status.
Observe a Firewise Communities/USA Day annually, dedicated to a local Firewise project.
Invest a minimum of $2.00 per capita annually in local Firewise projects. (Work by municipal employees or volunteers using municipal and other equipment can be included, as can state/federal grants dedicated to that purpose.)
Submit an annual report to Firewise Communities/USA that documents continuing compliance with the program.
Communities interested in earning recognition may visit www.firewise.org/usa for more information.
Firewise Communities/USA is a part of the National Firewise Communities Program, an interagency program designed to encourage local solutions for wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters, and others in the effort to protect people and property from the risk of wildfire. The National Firewise Communities Program includes Firewise Communities workshops, Firewise Communities/USA recognition program, and support for fire organizations and community groups. The National Firewise Communities Program is sponsored by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s Wildland/Urban Interface Working Team, a consortium of wildland fire agencies that includes the USDA Forest Service, the Department of the Interior, state forestry organizations, the US Fire Administration, and the National Fire Protection Association. For more information, visit www.firewise.org.
Posted on Mon, August 4, 2008
by Jack Carson, (405)522-4575