Fire is a natural part of our world. It can bring nourishment, create new land and renew the earth. Fire can move suddenly and with great power, and it is tempting to look at its effects and think only of the destruction. But it is important to remember that fire has provided rejuvenation to the earth for as long as the earth has existed.
Fire Is a Natural Force
Fire aids in the process of changing an earlier habitat type (like grassland) to a later habitat type (like forest); this is called succession.
Fire Is Not Uniform
Fire burns heavily in some areas but just scorches others, leaving a mosaic of different habitat types behind. This patchwork of different plant groups and habitats provides diversity for wildlife and other organisms.
Fire Increases Soil Fertility
Fire releases nitrogen and other nutrients and minerals that have been locked up in plants and other organisms, returning them to the soil.
How Does Wildlife Respond to a Fire
While fire may cause some animal deaths and injuries, many wildlife seem to be able to avoid the worst of the fire by taking cover in sheltered areas, burrows or by escaping the area. With exceptional drought, many frogs, toads and other wildlife were already burrowed deep into the soil to preserve their bodies’ water.
While some individual animals will not survive the fire, the species as a whole is well adapted to this natural part of their ecosystem. In fact, many wildlife species thrive on the occurrence of fire. The grasses, seedlings, shrubs and trees that reestablish burned areas provide an ideal environment for many small seed-eating mammals and birds. This abundance of small prey attracts predators like foxes and hawks. Burned trees provide sites for cavity-nesting birds like flickers, kestrels and chickadees, while woodpeckers thrive on the insects that inhabit these trees.
With time, more wildlife move back into a burned area from temporary home in unburned areas, leaving behind droppings or fur with seeds from those other areas. These seeds, along with the seeds buried in the soil from earlier times, will continue the succession process