A program of Oklahoma State University in conjunction with the Oklahoma Mesonet, OK-FIRE is an operational weather-based decision support system for wildland fire managers in Oklahoma. It was originally developed in 2005-2006 through a grant from the federal Joint Fire Science Program. Applications include wildfire, prescribed fire, and smoke management.
With over half its area consisting of wildlands, wildland fire is an important issue in Oklahoma, both through wildfire, which can cause property, animal, and human loss, and through prescribed fire, which is used increasingly as a land management tool. About 2.5 million acres of wildlands are typically burned in Oklahoma every year, 10% by wildfire and 90% by prescribed fire. During severe fire seasons, however, wildfires can consume many more acres, such as during the November 2005 through September 2006 period, when over 16,000 wildfires burned almost 1.5 million acres. Individual megafires are also becoming more common, such as the “Rhea Fire” in Dewey County in April 2018 which burned over 286,000 acres and lasted over two weeks.
OK-FIRE is used by large numbers of wildland fire managers, including fire departments, emergency managers, state and federal agencies, private organizations, and private landowners. A dedicated OK-FIRE website module is used to access products, which are available in map, chart, and table formats. The Oklahoma Mesonet is used for past and current conditions, while an 84-hour numerical forecast model, updated four times per day, provides a predictive component. In addition to fire weather information, fire danger and smoke dispersion products are also available. Since 2008 the OK-FIRE website has averaged over 5,000 users per month, but in times of high wildfire activity, usage can skyrocket, such as in April 2018 with the large wildfires in northwest Oklahoma when over 21,000 users accessed the website, an all-time monthly high. Training via workshops is also provided from time to time throughout each year, with over 1,600 wildland fire managers having been trained on the system since 2006.
Figure 1. Fire danger map from OK-FIRE during the Rhea Fire (white triangle) on April 17, 2018. Burning Index is shown, which is 10 times the flame length of the headfire in feet.
Figure 2. Example of a forecast chart from OK-FIRE for Woodward on March 4, 2021. Burning Index using Fuel Model T (tallgrass with open evergreen brush) is shown.