In this video Ike McWhorter, Fire Ecologist for the US Forest Service discusses the effects that lightning strikes and subsequent fire has on a Longleaf Pine forest.

Lightning in Longleaf Pine Forests Audio Transcription

Fire is an essential part of the Longleaf Pine ecosystem, and in pre-settlement times, lightning ignitions occurred often in the Longleaf Pine woods. Typically what would happen (is) the lightning would strike an old snag that had been maybe killed earlier by lightning strikes.  It would ignite the punky wood because of the resin content in the tree, and set it on fire and it may burn for hours through a rain storm.  A few hours after the rain would stop the fire in the wood, the embers would ignite the grass underneath and the fire would spread across the landscape burning perhaps for miles before it would find a barrier and stop - this is how the Longleaf perpetuated itself.

Also Native Americans probably added to the ignition patterns also.