THOUSAND OAKS : Schoolchildren Learn About 'Good' Fire

The difference between "good" fire and "bad" fire--this seeming oxymoron was the message fire and park officials wanted to convey Wednesday to students watching a controlled burn at the Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks.

"After the wildfires a couple of years ago, we have a lot of children frightened of any type of fire at all," said Sandi Wells , spokeswoman for the Ventura County Fire Protection District.

The burn was part of a fire prevention program that aims to protect the roughly 400 homes in and around the canyon and to aid the natural habitat there.

The area "needs fire to regenerate," Wells said. "We want to bring the park to where it would be naturally if fire were naturally to come through here."

The information and education center in the park's parking lot was staffed by rangers who told the 150 students about nature's need for fire. The children, from Wildwood Elementary School in Thousand Oaks, also learned about the park's wildlife.

Brush was cut and cleared from 20 to 30 acres in the park and then stacked in about eight piles. About 80 firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and the county Fire Department were on hand to control the blaze.

"Everything burned beautifully," said Ventura County Fire Capt. Richard Cook.

Wednesday's burn was part of a series of periodic controlled fires that will run from late February to July each year. The frequency of burns, Wells said, will vary with weather conditions and the amount of brush, among other variables.

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