WASHINGTON, D.C.—On July 12, 2023, Oklahoma State Forester Mark Goeller shared his expertise on enhancing wildfire prediction and response coordination before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. As Canadian wildfires dominate discussion, wildfires, their rampant devastation and impact on air quality are gripping the attention of communities around the world. Goeller pointed to Oklahoma’s collaboration with the National Weather Service as a potential model for national use.
Goeller, member of the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) Executive Committee and Chair of the Southern Group of State Foresters, was asked to testify because of Oklahoma’s unique Mesonet system, an internet-accessible network of over 100 remote automated weather stations across the state. The system’s structure and the rapidly updated information it provides has proved instrumental in monitoring weather conditions which could impact strategy and tactics for wildfire response, and the committee would like to highlight it as a potential national interagency model. A key theme of the hearing was the pivotal utility of interagency and interjurisdictional coordination, and the need to enhance national coordinative efforts.
The critical nature of recent technological developments and the imperative to continue in their investment is readily apparent to those putting their lives at risk for such work each day. “Prior to 2015, I would have on average one day’s warning that areas of the state would experience high-to-extreme fire danger. That changed in late 2015 when National Weather Service officials approached our Agency,” notes Goeller, referencing a relationship whose resulting increase in access to technologies and resources would go on to increase the warning timeframe from a single day to an average of three to seven days. Advanced notification is one of a few crucial instruments in minimizing the cost of life and resources resulting from wildfire.