Wildfires can destroy everything in their path, but sometimes that can be a good thing. Ecology experts at OSU want to teach Oklahomans about the positive effects prescribed burns can have on our landscape.
Oklahoma is one of the most diverse states when it comes to wildlife and plant life. But the only way it's going to stay that way is if those plants are allowed to burn.
John Weir is a research associate in OSU's Natural Resource Ecology and Management department. He told FOX25's Christine VanTimmeren, "Intentionally we burn between one and two million acres a year in this state."
Weir and his team have been studying the effects of fire on our landscape for years. What they've found is that we're not letting the land burn near enough as we should.
"Without fire what we see is a huge encroachment of woody plants across our landscape," said Weir.
Plants like the Eastern Redcedar that destroy vegetation, aggravate our allergies and sprout up just about everywhere, are killing native plant species and driving out wildlife.
To make those plants come back, many farmers and land owners are turning to prescribed burns.
"More people are turning to using fire and they lack that knowledge and experience of doing that. So that's what we hope this online training will do."
Recently, Weir helped create a free, online course to teach the public a basic understanding of prescribed burns, their effects and how to do it safely. The eight section course includes reading material, videos and multiple choice quizzes after every section. It can be done at your own pace and in whatever time frame you choose.
Weir said, "It's not going to be, you take this online course and you're just ready to go out and burn. But it's going to give everybody a taste of what they need to understand."
After the course, Weir hopes people seek out resources like the Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association, before burning.
Weir says after a prescribed burn, the land becomes healthier, more aesthetically pleasing and less susceptible to wildfires.
"You may displace wildlife. They may leave this area and go to another area, but once it recovers back, it's a better habitat and you might actually have more than you did before."
To take the Basic Prescribed Fire Training course you must create an account with the eXtention Online Campus. To create an account and take the course click here.