Hochatown Fire Preparedness Plan Meeting Planned

A community meeting will be held at 6 pm Thursday, February 15 at the Broken Bow Public Library where Oklahoma Forestry Services will discuss a new fire preparedness project. Area residents, cabin management companies and cabin owners are encouraged to attend to learn more about how they can participate in the plan.

Explosive tourism development in the Hochatown area caught the attention of wildland firefighters with Oklahoma Forestry Services and several years ago discussions began about how to be better prepared for wildfires in this very popular tourist area.

This issue has also been the focus of several national level fire managers as the area continues to see development of more and more structures nestled in the forest. The parallels between this tourist area and the fires that occurred in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 2016 make the significance of a preparedness plan even more relevant for the public and firefighters.

OFS began a huge project in 2016 utilizing a new GIS app called Collector. “This app was a game changer for us,” said OFS Forest Ranger and project lead, Don Cook. “It allows us to drop a pin with identifying information for every cabin, home and water source and layer that onto the road maps to begin developing strategies for wildfire suppression for each subdivision.”

The purpose of the Hochatown Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Preparedness Plan is to:

  • Enhance the safety of both firefighters and the public when wildland fire events threaten the area.
  • Streamline initial attack resources so that priorities and concerns are established at an early stage so that proactive strategies can be implemented.
  • Define and explain “trigger points” to be used in establishing needs for additional resources.
  • Enhance cooperation and coordination of responding resources by decreasing confusion and chaos in both ordering and utilizing additional resources.

“The Hochatown project encompasses many facets including documenting location of all subdivisions, cabins, homes, businesses; planning evacuation routes for each area; identifying cooperating fire departments and other partners to respond in the event of a large wildfire; and a plan to regularly conduct a simulation with all partners participating in a mock scenario,” said Cook. “Another component of the project will be home owner/cabin owner meetings where we discuss proactive steps each can take to make their property more defensible in advance of a wildfire.”

Oklahoma Forestry Services is the state’s lead agency related to wildland fire prevention, protection and use. For additional information about wildfire preparedness for individuals, visit www.forestry.ok.gov/firewise-for-you.