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Prescribed burns benefit base

Air Force Wildland Fire Center member using torch to light grass on fire.

A member of the Air Force Wildland Fire Center uses a torch to light a controlled fire in a field at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, March 3, 2021. Prescribed burns lessen the risk of catastrophic wildfires by reducing fuel loads, such as dead vegetation and cedar trees.(U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Shirk)

Tinker Firefighters picking up debris in a recently-burned field.

Members of Tinker Fire Emergency Services clean up debris and check for hotspots after a prescribed burn near the Indian Hills Inn at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, March 3, 2021. Prescribed burns save money and time over other vegetation maintenance methods, control growth and spread of invasive plants, maintain wildlife habitats and improve aesthetics by reinvigorating fire-dependent plants. (U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Shirk)

Members of the Air Force Wildland Fire Center using torches to set a dry grassy field on fire.

Members of the Air Force Wildland Fire Center use torches to set a grassy field on fire as part of a prescribed burn at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, March 3, 2021. Burning is done under a prescribed burn plan, which targets specific wind speed and direction, humidity, temperatures and other parameters set in advance. The burning only takes place within the prescription to ensure a low risk and that objectives are met. (U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Shirk)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Tinker Air Force Base has been on fire over the last week. Literally.

But, it’s not all smoke and mirrors. There’s a reason behind the burning.

For the last several years, Tinker’s Natural Resources Conservation Office has collaborated with the Air Force Wildland Fire Center and Tinker Fire Emergency Services to perform planned prescribed burns across base.

According to John Krupovage, Natural Resources program manager, prescribed burns serve to lessen the risk of catastrophic wildfires by reducing fuel loads, such as dead vegetation and cedar trees.

Krupovage said burns also ultimately save money and time over other vegetation maintenance methods, control growth and spread of invasive plants, maintain wildlife habitats and improve aesthetics by reinvigorating fire-dependent plants.

“The burns rejuvenate the native grasses we have out here so they’re healthier afterward,” he said. “It puts nutrients back in the ground; it’s almost like fertilizing those plants.”

Burning is done under a prescribed burn plan, which targets specific wind speed and direction, humidity, temperatures and other parameters set in advance. The burning only takes place within the prescription to ensure a low risk and that objectives are met. The burn plan also requires coordination with off-base entities, such as the National Weather Service, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and local police, sheriff and fire departments.

Over 70 individual units comprising 227 acres are scheduled to be burned this year. As of March 5, burning is 35% complete and will continue through mid- to late March.