The boreal forest in North America owes much of its floristic and faunistic diversity to periodic fires ignited by lightning and by man since he appeared on the scene. The indirect evidences of buring in vegetation and soils, and recent direct observations of fires, are reviewed. Fire is shown to exert a significant effect on vegetational composition, on soil chemical properties and thermal regime, and on animal populations through the particular mosaic of habitats created. In turn, fire is itselt influenced by the nature of geographic landscape ecosystems according to their surface forms, accumulations of organic materials, and susceptibility to drought. It is concluded that fire should be viewed as a normal ecological process in the boreal forest. A thorough understanding of its long-term role in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is needed.