While I have never "fought" fire, part of my job involves participating in prescribed burns. Prior to the 1900s, fire was an integral part of maintaining many of our natural landscapes. Some fires occurred naturally as a result of lightening strikes; others were set by Native Americans to keep the land open so that they could see potential invaders, as well as to improve wildlife (= food) habitat.
With the turn of the century came the severe suppression of fire from the landscape. This has led to big changes in the vegetation composition of our natural systems. Without fire, shrubs and trees encroach on prairies; savannas become forests; fire-tolerant oak-hickory forests transition into climax beech-maple communities. In addition, organic material has accumulated into a dense ground layer, in turn leading to larger, more destructive fires when they do occur.
A realization that fire is a beneficial and natural aspect of our natural history has initiated the activity of prescribed burning in many natural areas and landscape restorations. Fire helps by promoting germination of plant species that are adapted to fire, as well as keeping out invading woody species that are fire intolerant. Burning with a good plan also reduces the organic matter that can lead to catastrophic wildfires.
Although burning is just a small part of my job, it has to be one of the most exciting aspects of my work. Translated: fire is just cool.