Despite the apparent devastation after a wildland fire, fire is essential to the health of most ecosystems in California for several reasons. First, in chaparral and closed-cone communities, the seeds need fire to germinate. Second, fires clear the forest of underbrush, leaving ash and opening the forest floor up to sunlight. The resulting grasses, herbs and regenerated shrubs provide food for may wildlife species. Third, where the ground has a deep accumulation of fallen branches and dry litter, fires reduce this debris and supply nutrients to the soil. Periodic burns in area help use up the fuel, which means that successive fire is less intense and less destructive than when fires are suppressed and plant debris accumulates. Last, but not of least importance,when fires remove a thick stand of shrubs, the water supply is increased. With fewer plants absorbing water, streams are fuller, benefitting other types of plants and animals.Excerpted from a flyer distributed by CDF Headquarters, P.O. Box 944246, Sacramento CA 94244-2460
The Role of Fire in Southern California.