553 FIRE AND ICE
Hoarfrost, feathery white ice crystals that form as a result of freezing temperatures, clings to ponderosa pines scorched in a late summer wildfire that swept through thousands of acres in the Pine Ridge. Like wind and rain, fire plays a critical role in the health of many ecosystems. Although wildfires can be very destructive, they can also help heal natural communities depending on the fuel load built up from years of fire suppression and the intensity of the flames. By eliminating dead trees, twigs and grasses and other decaying matter, wildfires improve wildlife habitat by reducing dense vegetation and encouraging new plant growth and the return of native plants. Dawes County, Nebraska.