From the time that we are born, we are taught to fear fire. Fire burns down houses and destroys property, so it is a bad thing. People of my generation remember a certain character bear telling us to stop forest fires. Avoiding fire became a driving force for many of us. But it’s a very human centered view. We view fire as the ultimate destructive force.

Ecosystems “view” fire differently. In the absence of human beings, virtually all ecosystems experience periodic fire and most depend on it for control and regeneration of that ecosystem. The fires may be every year or two, or they may be once every 20 years. But fire is a defining force, in a positive way, for most ecosystems. Decades of extinguishing every fire that started in western forests led to some of the massive disasters that we have seen today due to an accumulation of fuel that previously would have been burned up by low intensity fires.

CHUCK OTTE is the agricultural and natural resources agent with the Geary County Extension Office.

Recommended for you