Prescribed burning in California has evolved from the original practices of the Native Americans, through years of experimentation and controversy, to finally become an accepted ecosystem management activity. When Dr. Harold Biswell arrived in California, he began research on improving game range by using prescribed fires and on understory burning in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex Laws.) stands. Through a series of field days that included demonstration burns, Dr. Biswell was able to educate and inform both the public and professional foresters about the benefits of prescribed fires. These field days became the basis for several university extension courses and were influential in changing the prescribed fire policies of numerous agencies. As the problem of urban encroachment into wildlands continues, the need for safe and effective prescribed burns will increase. Dr. Biswell's sound research, presentation of the facts, and patience with people and fire should guide us in the application of fire in wildland ecosystems.