A thunderstorm rolls through Interior Alaska, and lightning flashes. Each year lightning starts about 100 fires in Alaska and burns thousands of acres. The boreal has evolved to burn regularly, and boreal forest plants and animals have adapted to the effects of these frequent fires.
Shows like Bambi and Smoky Bear portray fire as a kind of villain or monster, but fire is a natural part of Alaska's ecosystem. Unlike the cartoon fires, wildland fires are not particularly fast moving, and most animals escape fire. bears and moose can easily outrun most fires, and birds can fly away. Smaller mammals can move to wet areas or hide underground.
Smokey Bear's message to prevent forest fires is aimed at accidental, human-caused fires – like those near populated areas which can threaten life and property. Natural fire in the boreal forest is necessary for habitat and wildlife diversity.
Prescribed fires are sometimes set by fire professionals under specific conditions to enhance wildlife habitat. Some prescribed fires are used to reduce forest fuels to help prevent potentially dangerous fires in the future. Like wildfires, prescribed fires stimulate regeneration.