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Published on: Jan. 31, 2011

have found that not all fires are bad. Research and experience have shown that fire can be used to manage native grasslands such as prairies, glades, savannas and woodlands, or planted cool- and warm season grasses. Fire can control woody plants and herbaceous weeds, restore natural communities, stimulate desirable plants, change grazing pressure, reduce wildfire hazards, improve wildlife habitat and increase livestock gains. To realize these benefits, fire must be used under specified conditions and with proper timing.

If You Use Prescribed Fire, Do It Right

Private landowners have been using fire for decades. Ranchers in north and southwest Missouri have been working with the Conservation Department and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for many years to manage their prairie grasses with prescribed fire. Many other landowners and some non-landowners have been burning land without benefit of a plan. Sometimes they get the desired results, but sometimes their fires burn too fiercely or escape onto adjoining lands and cause more damage than good.

The Conservation Department continually works with landowners to train them on the safe and effective use of prescribed fire. Landowner prescribed fire workshops are conducted periodically in all parts of the state. These workshops provide the landowner with some basic knowledge in conducting a prescribed burn. Occasionally, they are followed up with a demonstration burn.

Our offices have current weather information and are able to advise you if burning conditions are expected to make your prescribed fire hard to contain. In addition, there are now some very good weather websites, such as those administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA website contains a twice-daily Fire Weather Forecast during the spring and fall burn season.

Take advantage of both the training and weather availability if you are thinking of doing any prescribed burning.

The physical demand on fire crew members during wildfires, as compared to prescribed fires, is very different. In a wildfire situation, heat and smoke are intense and decisions must be made instantly. In a prescribed fire situation, prior planning and preparation makes it unnecessary for firefighters to endure the heat and smoke. Train, plan and equip for your prescribed fire prior to lighting so that using this management tool does not turn into a wildfire that can risk life and property. Many county soil and water districts and some conservation organizations rent for a small fee prescribed burn equipment such as

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