Urban Fires and Wildfires: October Hazards of the Month

URBAN FIRES AND WILDFIRES

October 8-14, 2017 is National Fire Prevention Week. For this reason our hazards for October are Urban Fires and Wildfires.

Urban Fire

An urban (structure) fire is one that burns a home or other improved structure. Fire generates a black, impenetrable smoke that blocks vision and stings the eyes, making it often impossible to navigate and evacuate. On average, seven people die in U.S. home fires per day. According to the Tulsa Fire Department, urban fires caused 72 deaths and 1,166 injuries in the jurisdiction from 2000 to 2011.

Fire kills more Americans than all natural disasters combined. Approximately 80% of all fire deaths occur where people sleep, such as in homes, dormitories, barracks, or hotels. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that most victims of urban fires die from smoke or toxic gases and not from burns as one might expect.

Smoke Detectors and Escape Plans

How to protect yourselves? Smoke detectors save lives. Three out of five home fire deaths in 2010-2014 were caused by fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.

Every Second Counts, Plan two ways out! According to an NFPA survey, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. Almost three-quarters of Americans do have an escape plan; however, less than half ever practiced it. One-third of survey respondents who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening. The time available is often less. Only 8% said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out. Develop a fire escape plan with you family and be sure to practice a fire drill twice a year. To download this year’s infographic (see above) or for more information in English and Spanish visit www.firepreventionweek.org.

Wildfires

2012 Mannford, Oklahoma Wildfire, Teri Hartman


As more people make their homes in wild land settings in close proximity to large tracts of grasslands or forests, the number of citizens and structural improvements at risk to the impacts of wildfire increases. Wildfires often begin unnoticed and spread quickly, igniting grass, brush, trees, and homes.

Within the Tulsa City/County jurisdiction, development in more remote and wooded areas, also referred to as the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), continues to take place. Because more people are choosing to build expensive homes on acreage in rural settings, surrounded by grasslands and forest, the WUI has increased enormously. This is particularly true of Tulsa, with its growing suburban population and upscale economy. While most grasslands of the U.S. have a fuel load of 1,000 to 2,000 lb. per acre, around Tulsa it is between 6,000 and 10,000 lbs. per acre.

If you live in a WUI, creating a defensible space around your property is an important component to dealing with the potential threat of wildfire. Firewise, a community program that is also available to neighborhoods and businesses, can provide guidance on how to work on these issues. For more information, visit http://www.forestry.ok.gov/firewise-communities.

On any aspect related to fire, the Tulsa Fire Department has an excellent public education program. To ask a question or request a speaker from their public education office, call the City of Tulsa Customer Care Center at 3-1-1 or if calling outside Tulsa, dial (918) 596-7777.

The Disaster Resilience Network is providing these hazards of the month in conjunction with the City of Tulsa’s Storm Water Drainage and Hazard Mitigation Advisory Board. These hazards are identified in the 2014 City of Tulsa Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.

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