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The costly benefits of wildfires

Smokey Bear is seen across America warning people about wildfires and informing them of the steps of prevention. For over 70 years, Smokey Bear has been an advocate against wildfires.

The California wildfire that began Nov. 8 is deemed one of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in California’s history. The fire has destroyed 14,000 residences and scorched areas the size of Chicago across Northern California, and as many as 85 people have died. It took 17 days to contain the fire that blazed through 153,000 acres north of Sacramento.

After a wildfire, the affected community has a lot to deal with. The loss of lives, the short and long term effects on wildlife and the cost of recovery.

Yet, in the midst of destruction and charred debris, there is still hope in the fire.

Fire is an important aspect in maintaining diverse and healthy ecosystems. Wildfires have the capacity to rebirth native species and clear dead wood and vegetation. It becomes a chance for new species to grow and thrive without the weeds and other competition getting in the way.

Some plants or trees depend upon fires as many of these plants have adapted to protect them against the effects of fire, and some are even strengthened by it.

Wildfires are also excellent pest killers. Trees that would otherwise die from pest infestation or diseases spread by these insects are removed and thus keeps the forests healthy. Wildfires are able to provide rich nutrients that nourish the plants and allow other wildlife to build a new habitat.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 88 percent of wildfires in 2017 were caused by humans. The wildfires started as a result of campfires left unattended, power lines, discarded cigarettes and sometimes, even arson.

In Oklahoma alone, there have been 1,906 reported cases of wildfire that have burned through 502,625 acres altogether.

According to the National Weather Service, the main components necessary for a megafire are strong winds and low relative humidity with a mix of high temperatures—these components can be seen in Oklahoma late winter or early spring.

Despite the benefits of the natural fires, always remember Smokey’s ABCs: Always Be Careful with fire. So for ORU students who may be camping soon, be aware of the effects you may have on the environment around you.