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Prescription: Fire

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

seen as a demon.

Fire has maintained this good guy/bad guy role throughout history. Even as we have studied the effects of fire on the natural world around us, we are discovering more ways that fire can be an asset to humans directly as well as to our natural world.

Protecting Our Resources From Fire

The Conservation Department, along with the U. S . Forest Service and a multitude of rural fire departments, has done a landmark job in curtailing the destructive fires of the past. However, each year, wild natural cover fires burn over 50,000 acres in the state.

We sometimes lose dwellings and outbuildings. We do lose the value of commercial grade timber through scarring and subsequent disease. We do lose soil cover and items such as fence posts and hay bales, and we spend tax money paying and equipping our firefighters to get in harm's way and put these fires out.

The irony of Missouri's wildfire problem is that these fires are all human produced and, therefore, preventable. Some are escaped trash or rubbish fires, some are due to carelessness with matches or campfires, some are from ill-planned burns by landowners.

And some are arson, deliberately set to cause harm or fear to someone else. In some parts of the state these arson sets account for more than half of the acres burned. Arson sets and escaped fires generally have one thing in common. They occur when the weather is dry, fuel is dry and winds are high. The result is that the fires have maximum destructive potential. This maximum destructive potential is what people have come to expect from any and all fires they see.

Protecting Our Resources With Fire

The Conservation Department has spent over 60 years fighting wildfires and trying to convince people of the damage associated with wildland fires. The Conservation Department has been successful in this. However, as we have learned more about the natural resources we manage, we have found that not all fires are bad. In fact, if you know what you are doing and use it under the right circumstances, a prescribed fire can be a good land management tool.

How can prescribed fire help you manage your property? It can:

  • Produce more forage for cattle in native warm-season grass plantings and prairies. Fire has been used successfully in the Great Plains by ranchers for 150 years.
  • Increase vigor and diversity of plant and animal life in prairies. Naturalists and

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