Fires like the ones sweeping through southern California used to race across Iowa and the rest of the prairie states, but Paul Wray, a forester for Iowa State University extension, says prairie fires in Iowa are a thing of the past. Wray says most of the prairie or warm weather grasses in Iowa have disappeared. In addition, the dry plants from row crops like corn and soybeans aren’t left behind in the fields but ground up during harvest, which means less fuel for a fire. Wray says corn fields can and do burn, but don’t provide the level of burning material necessary for a kind of fire that would scar thousands of acres like a prairie fire. While fire poses danger to life and property, Wray says fire can be beneficial for a prairie because it knocks out weeds. Wray says folks who’ve reestablished prairie grasses in Iowa do controlled burns. Fire also reduces the build-up of organic matter, according to Wray. Fire is devouring entire neighborhoods in Southern California between Los Angeles and Mexico. At least 13 people have died, and authorities say many waited too long after evacuation orders were issued and found they couldn’t escape the flames
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