I was born into and grew up in a family of early ecologists. Herb Stoddard one of the founders of the new field of ecology arising out of the natural sciences, was a close friend of Aldo Leopold. Because Aldo wrote a popular early book on ecology called the Sand County Almanac he got much of the credit for ecology, but Herb Stoddard and Dr. Allee were even more involved but in scientific research. My father, also going by the name of Ed Komarek, was mentored in by both Herb Stoddard and Dr. Alee and became the first true fire ecologist.
My father organized and was one of the founders of Tall Timbers Research Inc. http://www.talltimbers.org/research.html which he developed as a weapon to attack and dismantle misguided United States Forest Service fire suppression policies that were very destructive to natural fire ecosystems in the US and around the world. Due to his work there is now a strong scientific basis for the important role of fire in most ecosystems around the globe and this changed US Forest Service and US Park Service policies here in the US and elsewhere. http://firehistory.asu.edu/after-the-revolution-tall-timbers/
Unfortunately much more work must be done in implementing competent fire land management policies, especially in the western United States. In the west 100 years of misguided fire suppression policy, combined with a politically powerful fire suppression industry, and a complicit media, have created a catastrophic fire monster. Light periodic natural fires sweep the forest floor and grasslands free of the accumulation of dead debris and rejuvenate the land. The trees and grasses are adapted to light fires especially in Ponderosa pine forests in the West http://www.cpluhna.nau.edu/Biota/ponderosafire.htm and Longleaf, Loblolly and Slash pine forests in the Southeast United States.
These pines have insulating bark that protects against light fires and have flammable needles that the trees use to burn out the competition under natural fire conditions to create diverse microenvironments within larger fire type ecosystems. What fire suppression does is cause a buildup of flammable debris on the forest floor over many years, and when a fire does get into the forest and or grassland during times of drought and high winds, the fire goes from the forest floor into the crown of the trees, causing a catastrophic unstoppable conflagration that kills everything in the forest.
Poor fire land management practices are what causes these conflagrations, not fire or lighting or arsonists or drought as the media and the fire suppression industry would have you believe. This is a classic case of an industry creating a severe problem only to offer solutions that benefit it at an overall cost to society and the environment. Better and better fire suppression equals more and more accumulation of fuel on the forest floor, equals larger and larger unnatural fire conflagrations, leading to ever more loss of life, homes and destruction of fire ecosystems.
This is a classic case where an ounce of prevention is equal to a pound of cure. Financial resources have to be diverted from fire suppression to wildfire prevention through the use of what used to be called controlled burning, but now is called prescribed fire. It's a fallacy to think that land can be left alone to go back to a natural state, because man has forever altered the natural environment so that natural light fires can no longer burn across millions of acres rejuvenating forests and grasslands. The best we can do is to simulate natural conditions by using controlled fire to maintain these fragmented ecosystems with their great diversity of plants and wildlife.