According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 7,147,484 acres have burned in the U.S. this year due to wildfires. That total includes 35,362 acres in Arkansas and 150,409 acres in Oklahoma.
This is a great time for everyone to get “Red Cross Ready.” Through the American Red Cross and programs such as Arkansas FireWise everyone can be prepared.

The American Red Cross
Ken Garcia, regional director of communications for the Central and Western Oklahoma Region of the American Red Cross; and Mary Ann White, executive director of the North Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Red Cross; suggested that the best thing anyone can do is become “Red Cross Ready” and know where your local Red Cross location is.
“The Red Cross is first and foremost a relief agency,” Garcia and White said. “We are here to alleviate human suffering.”
First steps for the Red Cross are to setup an evacuation center and then open a shelter. “After this is done our priority is to make sure the essential needs of hydration and food are taken care of for the victims,” Garcia and White said. “Then we begin case work with the clients.”
Even if a person has family to take care of all the basic needs of food, shelter and animal care; the Red Cross will still provide information that may be helpful in the recovery process. In addition, the Red Cross keeps track of persons affected and their status after emergency situations.”
It is recommended that everyone is “Red Cross Ready.” This involves 1) having a kit, 2) making a plan, and 3) staying informed. Your kit should include medications and important documents. Making a plan should include an evacuation route from within your home and neighborhood. Staying informed can be achieved by paying attention to your local news station.

Arkansas FireWise
Matt Simpson is the coordinator of the Arkansas FireWise program. “The FireWise program works with local fire departments to certify and educate communities across the state about the services of the FireWise program,” Simpson said. “This is done through projects that reduce the risk from wildfire to the residents and infrastructures. It provides educational programs that spread the FireWise message and grant money that is issued to the fire departments to assist them in developing their local program.”
Another good resource for preparedness and emergency kits is through the FireWise “Ready. Set. Go.” Program. This is a program that utilizes FireWise as the “Ready” portion. “Set” would include your emergency kit, and “Go” is the evacuation.
“For Livestock owners a planned location to take evacuated animals to is an important part of any emergency kit, as well as a prearranged way to transport them,” Simpson added.
Simpson warns people to not return to any fire area until authorities tell you it is safe. “Take lots of photos,” he added. “Photos of your property before any event and stored in a safe place may be of value. And contact your insurance company.”


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