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Prescribed Burn Associations are Getting Fire on the Ground

By John R. Weir, Associate Extension Specialist, Oklahoma State University Natural Resource Ecology and Management

Posted Oct. 11, 2018

Prescribed burn associations (PBAs) have been active in Oklahoma and Texas since the late 1990s. Landowners, with assistance from local agencies and groups, form local associations to safely and effectively apply fire to land. To accomplish this task, PBA members pool their equipment, labor and expertise to assist each other in conducting prescribed burns.

Community support is essential for an effective burn association. We encourage landowners and managers to set goals and objectives when forming an association to help gain the needed support.

My role as an associate extension specialist for Oklahoma State University and board president of the Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association (OPBA) is to help local groups become formal associations. I help landowners find equipment and training, and I serve as one of their main support contacts.

Formed in 2013, the OPBA is the statewide organization that assists individual PBAs with training, equipment, funding opportunities and other resources. The formation of the OPBA was one of the most important steps to help landowners reclaim the Oklahoma landscape, which was historically shaped by fire. The state association establishes, educates and assists a network of local burn associations across Oklahoma.

It’s important that we provide landowners with information, training and funding opportunities to help them safely and effectively apply fire to their lands. Liability is one of the greatest concerns landowners have when considering prescribed fire. By bringing landowners together to equip and train them in the proper use of fire, we can help reduce that anxiety. We also have to combat the decades-long anti-fire campaign of a certain cartoon bear, so the OPBA has a major focus on educating the public and policymakers about the importance of prescribed fire and the safety of this management practice. When we are more proactive and safely use prescribed fire, it helps the public become less fearful of fire and see the many benefits it provides to the land.

We currently have 21 PBAs in Oklahoma. They cover 37 counties and include more than 300 members. These associations have been gaining in popularity and activity during the past 10 years.

Associations can enter information about prescribed burns conducted in Oklahoma and across the nation through our online form. It does not ask for any personal information. We use this information to show people prescribed fire activity, safety records and the reasons for conducting burns.

In 2017, 15 Oklahoma PBAs conducted 106 burns on 22,720 acres across 22 counties. The top three reasons for burning were livestock production, cedar control and wildlife habitat. Most burns were conducted in April, but burns were conducted in eight different months. This shows growing season burns are gaining acceptance and popularity. No insurance claims or lawsuits were reported, which should reduce fears of liability when burns are performed under proper conditions with adequate equipment and the assistance of the local PBA.

Learn more about prescribed burn associations at bit.ly/nrem-burn-assc, or enter a burn you have conducted at www.ok-pba.org.

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