Stillwater News Press

Local News

June 7, 2014

Sign stations help warn public of fire danger

STILLWATER, Okla. — Even though the governor-ordered burn ban is over, firefighters update fire danger every day at each of Stillwater’s four fire stations for the community to see.

“It’s another tool to jog people’s memory to be cautious in a burn ban or when burning,” Deputy Fire Marshal Neal Moore said. “With more locations, there’s a greater chance that the public sees warnings to be cautious.”

The signs are a part of Stillwater’s designation as a Firewise community.

A ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. June 24 at Fire Station No. 1. The city of Stillwater will present firefighters with an award.

Stillwater is the largest community of 12 in the state to receive the recognition.

Fire Marshal Trent Hawkins began the yearlong process in 2012. In September, Stillwater became designated as a Firewise community by the Oklahoma Forestry Services.

Hawkins was responsible for bringing together a Firewise board to coordinate with the forestry department. The board then completed a risk assessment that had to be approved by the state. A plan was developed based on the assessment to minimize the chance of wildfires starting on the outside of town and spreading.

Postdoctoral Research Associate Dirac Twidwell completed the Community Wildfire Hazard and Risk Assessment for Stillwater.

He found high risk areas where the goal is have a high response from the public to help reduce fires at no cost to the property owner.

Hawkins said the purpose of Firewise is to save lives and property through public education.

Every morning at 7 a.m., firefighters check national certified forestry websites for fire danger information. If conditions change, the sign is updated throughout the day.

“It also may stay the same from day to day,” Chief of Training Robert Black said.

On Friday, one day after the burn ban expired, fire conditions were not severe. The county has seen enough rain to lessen the risk.

 A Firewise community with fewer structures lost could bring insurance rates down.

During dangerous conditions such as the summer 2012 wildfires, insurance rates can increase.

Insurance Services Offices conduct audits of communities for the purpose of establishing insurance rates. Hydrant installation and maintenance are important when looking at ISO rates.

Hawkins said Stillwater has 1,800 fire hydrants, used when the fire truck apparatus isn’t enough.

The apparatus can hold up to 1,000 gallons of water.

Different color tops – light blue, green, orange and black – are a coding system for the hydrant’s flow capacity measured in gallons per minute.

“The better your ISO rating the lower your rates are,” Hawkins said.

Since being designated Firewise, Hawkins said the success is difficult to determine, taking years to measure.

“We have definitely made progress in better informing the public on days that the wildfire danger is high with the placement of signs at the fire stations and with the partnerships formed with businesses in town that display a fire danger sign on their electronic billboards,” he said.

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