Massive controlled fire set to prevent future fires

LAWTON, Okla._The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service carried out a 2,700 acre prescribed burn between Ft. Sill and the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge.

Wednesday's fire is a culmination of several months of planning to find the right weather, right area and right time. Doing a prescribed burn early in the year is key to prevent larger fires later on. Jeremiah Phillips, Assistant Fire Manager, says it's also a part of restoring a natural balance to the area.

"We as an agency want to restore a natural process back into a natural environment," said Phillips.

Balance is the goal of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as they set fire to thousands of acres of vegetation, both dead and alive. During the burns, animals on the refuge knew exactly what to do, move to safety.

"The animals do a very good job of moving out of the way, they're very experienced with being around fire and living around fire," said Phillips.

Besides scorching land before real wildfires can claim it, crews say these flames are a safety net for even those of us in town.

"Between not only the refuge and Ft. Sill, if something should come out of the impact range unexpectedly, because of the big buffer we're putting in, should that happen it protects the communities farther to the north by stopping it right here. In places where we can allow the natural environment to function as it naturally would want to without our influence, we're just that much better off in the end," said Phillips.

Normally prescribed fires like this are allowed to burn out on their own. However, crews will be on hand for the rest of the night to manually put these flames out before shifting winds could cause embers to flair back up.