Many Americans grew up surrounded by Smokey Bear advertisements, which encouraged civilians to prevent wildfires at all costs. But Smokey had it wrong: Natural fires can actually benefit ecosystems.
The heat from forest fires is responsible for "releasing millions of seeds which are carried by the hot air to form new forests," the above video by TedEd explains. The area left behind after a fire features carbon-rich soil and large open spaces, an environment that helps those seeds grow quickly and in ample amounts. Without fires, certain tree species could die out and so would the animals which depend on them.
After years of listening to Smokey Bear, it's hard for us to wrap our heads around the fact that these harmful-looking blazes actually help our forests. The video does a great job of breaking down their scientific importance—and of quieting that nagging brown bear in our brains.