Fuels burned by either prescribed or wildfires are complex and important components of forested ecosystems. Fine fuels consisting of fallen limbs, twigs, and leaves of shrubs and trees are rich in nutrients. If these fuels are not immediately burned, nutrients can leach from these materials into the forest floor, especially if they overwinter. Larger fuels consisting of standing dead trees, large limbs, and down logs or coarse woody debris (CWD) play critical roles in fixing and storing nitrogen (N), protecting the soil surface, and suppling organic matter to the forest floor. Up to 40% of the top 30 cm of a forest soil can be composed of rotten CWD buried (soil wood) in the mineral soil. In addition the litter layer (duff) composed of rotten wood, leaves, twigs, needles, cones, and other fine fuels decompose to form the humus layer. These surface layers coupled with soil wood store and release nutrients, are sites for nitrogen fixation, and provide habitat for ectomycorrhizae. Depending on the ecosystem, amounts of CWD desired for maintaining soil productivity range from 15 Mg ha-1 (7 tons ac-1) in ponderosa pine forests of northern Arizona to 74 Mg ha-1 (33 tons ac-1) in western hemlock forests of northern Idaho. Fires occurring when the lower organic layers are moist ensures preservation of much of the microbiological and nutrient properties of these organic components. These organic components are critical for sustaining forested ecosystems and how they are burned can have both short- and long-term impacts on forest productivity. Therefore both mechanical and fire fuel treatments used to meet reforestation and hazard reduction objectives should conserve these materials.