Natural forces have shaped forest ecosystems over the millenniums. Those forces have included people, animals, insects, disease, wind, weather, and fire. Native peoples saw fire as an ally and were proactive in its use as a management tool. They used fire to drive game, eliminate pests, communicate, and to clear land for settlements, travel, and agriculture.
Many forest ecosystems are fire dependent. Fire is needed to control competitive species, prevent overstocking, open cones, and to prepare the soil for natural seeding. Fire dependent species have developed thick bark to withstand the periodic low intensity burns common to these ecosystems.
Fire is a paradox: good if it is under control, and usually bad if it is wild and out of control. Wildfires have devastated millions of acres of forest land, however, together with Smokey Bear, we've achieved a great deal of success in fire prevention. Now we're beginning to realize that we need to reintroduce fire to many ecosystems. It's often an essential management tool needed to maintain stands of fire dependent species in a healthy condition. We can now see the "Two Sides of Fire."