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Fire Weather/Extreme Fire Danger

Okiedawn OK Zone 7
14 years ago

Y'all know I am a total weather geek. As a gardener, of course, it is important for us to watch temperatures, wind, rain/sleet/snow/frost, etc. To ignore the weather is to put our gardening activities at risk.

So, I am also the wife of a fire chief (volunteer) and the mother of a professional firefighter. Around our house, the fire weather predictions are, therefore, as important to them as the normal weather conditions are to me.

During the week ahead, we have very dangerous fire weather conditions that will occur virtually statewide on several days. On some days, the criteria will be met that lead to the issuance of Fire Weather Watches, Red Flag Warnings, etc.

This week, Monday's fire danger is predicted to be "Extreme', especially for far western and northwestern Oklahoma. However, virtually all the state is at risk. Thursday will be another very bad day.

When the fire danger is high, I always leave sprinklers hooked up and ready to turn on at the first sign of smoke in the immediate area. You always think it "won't happen" to you, but neighbors just two houses up from us had a wildfire threatening their brand-new home just a few weeks ago.

I guess all I'm saying is that it could be a bad fire week, so stay alert and be careful. I think that wildfire is more of an issue for those of us in the more rural areas, but with all the still-dormant vegetation, everyone is at risk to some degree.

Dawn

Comments (9)

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    It is very quiet here today, for which we are grateful.

    There are several wildfires in the Seiling area, and you can see the smoke plumes on the weather radar. If any of you live in this area, I hope you are safe.

  • scottokla
    14 years ago

    The last two years I have planted a couple of acres of crimson clover in the open areas surrounding my house. Not only does it look beautiful and attract more bees than you can imagine in April, it is pretty much the perfect green fire-barrier from November to April also.

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  • very_blessed_mom
    14 years ago

    Scott,

    Does the clover attract deer? I'm assuming it would. They are a double-edged sword for me. I love them on one hand, but they can be quite a nuisance at times. My first fall/winter here the stinkers rubbed all the bark off my baby trees, made them look like hour glasses and killed them :( --I've since learned how to protect the trees. I'm bordered on 2 sides by a 13,000+ acre ranch that's loaded with wildlife. But they haven't done a controlled burn in the last few years and if there is ever a wildfire I fear it will be a bad one. Anyway the clover is something I never would have thought of and will think about some more. Not sure if it would benefit me since my place is only 2 1/2 acres and I don't want the whole thing covered in it. The bees would be nice though.

    Jill

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    Scott,

    We have planted winter rye grass in the area around the house, garage/barn and garden every winter since 2004 for the same reason. I love being surrounded by an ocean of green in the winter time.

    And, yes, it attracts deer. Sometimes, if the deer find the rye grass before its' roots are well established, they completely pull it up out of the ground as they eat it, leaving ugly bare patches.

    It gives me a certain degree of "peace of mind" when wildfires are nearby and we have green around the house. HOWEVER, one thing I learned during the horrid wildfire season of 2005-2006 is that green grass WILL burn in certain instances. (I was really discouraged when I heard this.) One of the founders of our VFD, who is a retired professional firefighter, told me that sometimes green grass makes a fire WORSE because it releases more oxygen as it burns and that oxygen feeds the flames. (sigh) I didn't want to believe him! About a month later, we were at a pasture fire just a couple of miles from our home. You could see plenty of green on the surface, but apparently there was a huge thatch build-up beneath that green. It was one of the most exasperating, unpredictable fires our guys fought that year. And, yes, the green burned along with the dormant stuff. I think that was an April or May fire.

    Still, in general the green does protect your home. And, from what I've seen personally of fires in our area, the green generally doesn't burn, unless it is intermixed with dormant grasses or has a heavy thatch build-up. The kind of thatch to which I am referring is the kind you get in a pasture that is never mowed. The old stuff dries up and eventually falls over and the green stuff grows up through it in the spring. If that goes on for a few years, a pretty good layer of thatch develops and that tends to be where the green stuff burns.

    Today is another "Extreme" fire danger day (and the further west you go in Oklahoma, the worse the danger) and I already have coolers of drinks iced up and loaded onto the fire trucks. I hope it is quiet here today...I want to spend the day in the garden, but with the wind blowing and gusting like it is, it could be a very bad day.

    Dawn

  • scottokla
    14 years ago

    Well, it was too windy to burn today, so I pruned a hundred or so little pecan trees (the ones not under water) instead. Not so much fun. I like to burn (responsibly, of course).

    You know, what really protects our house from fires is the fact that I re-seed the clover each year, which means that I scratch the ground up in the fall and don't have any dry material sitting on the ground anywhere.

    I seed a lot of clover and vetch for the deer. At my house I use the crimson clover just because of the fast growth (nitrogen) on heavy soil, the beauty, and the bees (cheap too). Last year when I kept the dog fenced in, a small group of 5 deer slept on my clover occasionally and munched on the area watered by the aerobic septic sprinklers (another fire-preventer). This year, they have plenty of food everywhere else (and the dog is loose), but two deer occasionally come into my orchard and blueberry area and try to get to the clover there without the dog seeing them. They haven't touched the blueberries this year for some reason.

    Somehow managed to get another .75 inches of rain today in 15 minutes. Then sunny again. Actually it was sunny during the last half of the rain. No fire danger here!

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    Scott,

    I bet the clover is lovely too! All you need is a bee hive and you could have some wonderful clover honey. I am sure the clover keeps you safer from fire than you'd be without it.

    Maybe I'll try clover next year instead of rye grass. It could only help the heavy red clay soil.

    So, how much standing water do you have around the pecan trees AND how much can they tolerate? Pecans used to be a pretty big crop here in Love County, but everyone seems to have switched to cattle and horses. Or course, everyone here has a few pecan trees. Peanuts aren't grown much anymore either. I believe they became much less profitable when government price support payments were decreased or eliminated completely.

    Our deer are so spoiled that they come stand in the driveway and stare at the house if I forget to put out deer corn in the winter time. I was talking to a neighbor the other day who lives west of us. (It is his place that is directly between us and the Red River.) He has a horrible problem with deer just stripping his garden bare every year. He finally said "You know, if I wouldn't feed them all winter, maybe they wouldn't keep coming to my garden the rest of the year." LOL So, I guess he and I have created our own deer problem by making them feel welcome here during the cold season.

    From the number of pecan trees you have, I am assuming that you raise pecans professionally? I love groves of established pecan trees. There are some here in Love County, down in the River Bottom land west of Marietta, that are just gorgeous--huge majestic trees!

    We had lightning off to our north, and the wind direction changed as the front arrived, but no rain. You are the rainfall leader this year, I think, and I am sure you wish there'd be a little less of it at times.

    Dawn

  • scottokla
    14 years ago

    Dawn,

    Most of our water recedes within 24 hours, but about 15 acres will stay under for a few days, and another 5 acres was under water 4 months last year and for all of this year thus far. Supposedly the trees can take it for one growing season, but this will be the second in a row unless we get no significant rainfall for the next 45 days.
    There is a chance we could lose this 5 acres.

    All of the trees are in the 40-80 year old range, with some more acres (10-20) of young ones scattered around. They produce about 40% of the years, but are only profitable once every 5 years or so. It is a great time and money eater every year though.

  • Lynn
    14 years ago

    I was the victim of a discarded cigarette yesterday. I live in a rural area of mostly native pasture land. Someone threw a cigarette out the window and started a grass fire. There was a pretty good breeze, I'm just glad it wasn't really blowing hard. The fire burned about 50 acres of our pasture, threatened my cattle herd, and was stopped by 3 volunteer fire departments, a bureau of Indian affairs fire pickup and one full time fire department before it reached my house. Talk about scary! A fireman called me when the call came in because he knew me and where my house was. I rushed the 12 miles home immediately. It was a terrible feeling seeing that large smoke plume rise on the way, not knowing what exactly was burning.

    My hubby's brother was in one of the first fire trucks into the area and he found our cattle huddled in a corner where the fire was headed to and being engulfed in smoke. He could see a gate and was going to open it for them to go into the next pasture. They were pretty nervous and all took off running, luckily away from the fire. We did have one cow with a new baby stay up in the pasture, but the fire just skirted past her and the calf and they are fine. Thanks to all the firemen they stopped the fire before it reached my house. We lost some wooden fence posts where the fire started and the firemen had to cut the wire in another place to get into the pasture. I'm considering myself very lucky to only have some fence to rebuild.

    My hubby is a volunteer fireman on one of the responding departments and got to the fire about the same time I did to help fight it. I've always been proud of him for trying to help people and not receiving a dime for his services. I'm really grateful to all the volunteers who helped save my cattle and home. The next time you see those small volunteer fire departments raising money be sure to drop a little money in the pot. Most small volunteer departments struggle with funds and never have enough good equipment. You never know, next time you could be the victim of that tossed cigarette.

    Lynn

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    Lynn,

    I am just so relieved to hear that the damage was minimal. (Although, of course, it never seems quite so minimal when it is your own place, and not someone else's.) If I were there with you now, I'd just give you a big hug and say how happy I am that you are OK, so consider yourself hugged long distance. : )

    I know it is a terrible experience, especially as you're hurrying home and watching that big old plume of smoke, all the while wondering what has already burnt and what remains in danger.

    I am so proud of all the firefighters in Oklahoma--volunteer and professional--and the work they do. In our county, the 14 volunteer fire departments, the BIA and the forest service fire crews work together so well that it is just amazing.

    I'd like to second what you said, Lynn, about people supporting the volunteer fire departments. Most people assume that there is some kind of magical pot of money that the VFDs get from their city, county, state, or the federal goverment.....and that there is always enough money. That, of course, is not at all true. Most volunteer departments barely scrape by even though they are constantly working hard to raise money.

    On extreme fire danger days and extremely critical fire danger days, I am like a cat on a hot tin roof. I keep the fire radio turned on to the County Repeater so I can keep track of every fire in the county, instead of leaving it on the "pager" feature. And, I hate to get too far from home.

    We live in an area of rural mostly native pasture land too, and it can burn like mad. We've never had a fire as close to us as yours, but have had 2 on our land (but they were burning away from the house and outbuildings, and nowhere near fences of animals or anything). However, the ranch across the road catches fire at least a couple of times a year. (Their pastures back up to a highway and most of the fires start from the roadside.)

    For any of you wondering how to know when the fire danger is high, one of the easiest ways is to look at the NWS Enhanced Weather webpages. I check them daily, as they are informative and give info on all weather, and not just fire danger. On the enhanced weather page, the fire outlook is usually in one of the boxes along the right side of the page, near the bottom. Just keep scrolling down until you see it. You can click on it to enlarge it.

    Dawn

    Here is a link that might be useful: NWS Enhanced Weather Webpage

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