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Preventing wildfires at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

The Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge is home to some of the widest variety of birds each winter. But in the summer, a different kind of visitor comes to the park — heat and humidity that could spark a wildfire.

The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is home to some of the widest variety of birds each winter.

But in the summer, a different kind of visitor comes to the park — heat and humidity that could spark a wildfire.

“The main thing we do here at Laguna Atascosa is basically manage the hazardous fuels," said Laguna Atascosa Refuge Manager Boyd Blihovde.

Blihovde took CBS 4 around the preserve Friday to show us how the park prevents wildfires from starting while maintaining a healthy environment for various species.

"Last year we burned by prescribed fire close to 18,000 acres," Blihovde said.

Sometimes called a controlled burn, these fires leave very little on the surface after they are put out.

Areas that have been prescribed for burning don't have much vegetation left at all. You can actually stomp your foot on the ground and feel how hard and dry the surface is—meaning you can't really burn anything right now.

Blihovde, a former firefighter himself, sees these efforts as not only important for the wildlife, but also for nearby residents.

"It's called the urban interface between the wild lands and the urban area, and as you know the fires that are going on in California that's what they're dealing with," said Blihovde.

And as the summer continues to be mostly dry across the Valley, fire officials at Laguna will continue to monitor for potential dangers.

"Knowing the relative humidity, and how hot and how windy it is important, but also how much moisture is in the fuel," said Bliehovde.

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