Despite the horrific nature of forest fires they, like many other natural disasters, serve a purpose, one that is vital to the health of forest ecosystems. Although humans see these raging infernos as something to be feared, and rightly so, they bring with them a change in the forest that is needed and welcomed by that ecosystem and all the plants and animals living within it.
Benefits of Forest Fires
Forest fires play a huge role in keeping forested areas healthy. The landscape of many forests is something in a constant state of change, often brought about by what humans would term a natural disaster. Many types of trees, plants and animals rely on the sweeping effects of forest fires to survive. One benefit of forest fires is that they clear away dead wood and debris from the forest floor that would take years to decay and decompose otherwise. This provides that nutrients for the soil and the opportunity for new plants to start their lives on the now exposed forest floor.
More frequent forest fires also have the benefit of clearing away much of the fuel present in the forest so that future forest fires burn with much less intensity and are less likely to become overly destructive. Forest fires also serve the purpose of clearing out trees that have become to densely packed to grow in a healthy manner.
Like much of the once natural occurrences in nature humans have had a huge impact on forest fires, both in fighting them and in causing them. Forest fires become a problem when they occur in the wrong places and/or at the wrong time. When this occurs the destruction can get out of hand and affect human populations immensely. In some areas of the world fires that are expected to burn each year, such as those in southern California, have become entirely unnatural and are heavily influence by humans.
Fighting forest fires is another way that humans have a huge impact. Although fighting fires is viewed as a positive and necessary act it can do more harm than it does good. The fire retardant that is often dumped from bombers is toxic to fish if it reaches any flowing water. To stop fires from spreading bulldozers often clear areas, which not disturbs the soil and any plants living there, but also adds to soil erosion, a problem that is only getting worse.
Learn to Live with Fire
No matter what humans choose to do next the forests will continue to burn. This is the way of life in the forest and nothing that humans do will stop that. Instead people should learn better and safer ways of managing fires, and of controlled burning, to allow the ecosystems of forests to take their natural courses.