Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, was recently notified by the Firewise Communities/USA Program that Oklahoma is now in the "Top 10" nationwide for the number of Firewise Communities.

"In 2009 we only had two communities in the program and in just three years we have made great strides," said Mark Goeller, OFS Fire Chief. "We now have 36 Firewise Communities with another 25 working toward that goal."

Oklahoma communities are realizing the importance of the program as the number of wildfires, especially those impacting populated areas, has reached historic levels over the past few years. When a wildfire occurs, it can quickly expose dozens, sometimes hundreds, of homes to fire simultaneously. In many situations, firefighters do not have the resources to defend every home. Homeowners who take proactive steps to reduce the likelihood of their home igniting during a wildfire stand a far greater chance of having their homes survive.

"Oklahoma has much to be proud of as our communities are working to make themselves more resistant to approaching wildfires," said George Geissler, Oklahoma State Forester. "Kingfisher County has taken the approach a step further with every community in the county participating in the program. We hope that other counties will be inspired to follow their example."

The national Firewise Communities program is a multi-agency effort designed to reach beyond the fire service by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, and others in the effort to protect people, property, and natural resources from the risk of wildland fire before a fire starts.

"It starts with a community wanting to be proactive and taking steps to make the community resistant to wildfire," said Goeller. "Few homes or communities outside city environments are completely safe from wildfire. The threat of wildfire in the wildland/urban interface is getting worse as more people move into these fire-prone areas."

Twenty communities were recognized at the 2nd Annual Firewise at the Crossroads Conference in Norman. Representatives from the following communities were recognized and presented with a placard designating them as a Firewise Community: Antlers, Blair, Canute, Cashion, Clinton, Colbert, Daisy, Dillard, Dover, Falconhead, Harmony, Hennessey, Hitchcock, Hochatown, Hollis, Iowa Tribe, Kingfisher, Mangum, Roberta and Willis-Powell.

To learn more, visit www.forestry.ok.gov/firewise or call 405-522-6158.

Date: 10/8/2012

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