Introduction: Pinus is a diverse genus of trees widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Understanding pine life history is critical to both conservation and fire management. Objectives: Here I lay out the different pathways of pine life history adaptation and a brief overview of pine evolution and the very significant role that fire has played. Results: Pinus originated ~150 Ma in the mid-Mesozoic Era and radiated across the northern continent of Laurasia during the Cretaceous Period. Pines have followed two evolutionary strategies interpreted as responses to competition by the newly emerging angiosperms. The Strobus lineage mostly has radiated into stressful sites of low nutrient soils and extremes in cold or heat. The Pinus (subgenus) lineage has radiated into fire-prone landscapes with diverse fire regimes. Examination of life history traits illustrates syndromes associated with fire-avoider, fire-tolerater, fire-embracer, and fire-refuge strategies. Conclusion: Understanding the current pattern of pine distribution requires interpreting their evolution in terms of climate, geology, and fire. All three of these factors have played a role since the Mesozoic origin of the genus. All are important to the appropriate management of these resources.