Fires in Yellowstone

(UPDATE at 12:30 p.m. MDT, August 19, 2013)

Alum Fire

Alum Fire, August 17, 2013. NPS photo. (click to enlarge)

Of the three significant active fires in Yellowstone National Park, the 6,150-acre Alum Fire northwest of Fishing Bridge is by far the largest and appears to have the most potential. It was discovered August 14 and did not do much until strong winds on Saturday caused it to grow to over 3,000 acres. The fire is within a mile of the Grand Loop Road north of Fishing Bridge. There is the potential for temporary closures of the road between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge Junction. The latest road status information is available 24-hours a day by calling 307-344-2117.

Map of Alum Fire

Map of Alum Fire by NPS, August 18, 2013. The original version of this map can be found HERE. (click to enlarge)

The park reports that help is on the way:

Additional firefighters and engines arrived on Sunday and more are expected today and later in the week as fire mangers focus on protection of the road corridor, the boardwalk in Mud Volcano, and the nearby power line. As a precaution, structure protection efforts are already underway in Fishing Bridge, Lake Village, and Bridge Bay should the fire advance toward those areas in coming days. While area evacuations are not imminent, preparations are underway to assist residents and visitors in leaving the Fishing Bridge, Lake Village, and Bridge Bay area in the unlikely event that an evacuation is necessary in the coming days.

The 2,000-acre Alder Fire on a peninsula in the south end of Yellowstone Lake is constrained by water on three sides and a recent fire footprint on the other. The Druid Fire near Lamar Valley in the northeast section of the park has burned 75 acres.

The park sent out a Tweet Monday afternoon saying:

All roads leading into & through Yellowstone & all visitor services are OPEN. The Alum Fire is not a threat to visitors or residents.

Occasionally the fires can be seen from the two Mt. Washburn web cams, but sometimes drift smoke from fires outside the park degrade the visibility.

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(UPDATE at 11:30 a.m. MDT, August 18, 2013)

Map of Alum Fire at 11 p.m. MDT, August 18, 2013

Map of Alum Fire in Yellowstone National Park, showing heat detected by a satellite at 11 p.m. MDT, August 18, 2013 (click to enlarge)

The Alum Fire has grown to 3,000 acres, the Alder Fire has burned 900 acres, and the Druid Fire is 60 acres. Below is an update Saturday morning from Yellowstone National Park:

“Alum Fire: This lightning caused fire was discovered Wednesday morning, August 14, burning in the backcountry west of Mud Volcano near Alum Creek. The fire had remained fairly quiet for several days and had grown only to 3 acres as of Saturday morning. However, as critical fire weather conditions developed early Saturday afternoon the fire sprang to life. Extreme fire behavior was observed including short periods where the fire advanced through the crowns of the mature lodgepole pine forest. The fire advanced at least six miles to the east-northeast in the span of a few hours. The head of the fire is within a mile of the Grand Loop Road near Mud Volcano. The Alum Fire is now estimated at 3,000 acres. Additional firefighting resources are on their way to the park to assist with protection of the road corridor, the boardwalk in the Mud Volcano, and the nearby power line. There is the potential for temporary closures of the road between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge Junction.

Alder Fire: This fire on a peninsula at the south end of Yellowstone Lake experienced significant fire activity again Saturday, doubling in size from 450 acres to an estimated 900 acres as it burned in heavy timber and produced a tall smoke column visible all around the lake. The fire is hemmed in by water on three sides and by a recently burned area to the south. Several backcountry campsites on The Promontory have been temporarily closed. This fire was discovered on August 14th and was caused by lightning.

Druid Fire: Gusty winds, low humidity and hot temperatures resulted in active fire behavior on the Druid Fire Saturday, which is burning in a steep heavily timbered bowl in the backcountry high above the Northeast Entrance Road on Druid Peak. The fire grew from 30 to 60 acres on Saturday, and at times some smoke and flames were visible from along the road.”

Alum Fire in Yellowstone National Park

Alum Fire in Yellowstone National Park as seen through a dirty lens and drift smoke; Mt. Washburn web cam at 11:24 a.m. MDT, August 18, 2013

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(UPDATE at 11:40 p.m. MDT, August 17, 2013)

Alum Fire August 17, 2013

Alum Fire August 17, 2013; NPS photo

When we wrote the article below, the Alum Fire was listed on the Yellowstone National Park website as being 0.1 acre so we didn’t mention it. However on InciWeb it is listed now at 3,000 acres. Strong southwest winds and warm temperatures contributed to moving the fire eight miles in six hours Saturday afternoon.

The fire is northwest of Yellowstone Lake in the center of the park, about five miles northwest of Fishing Bridge. The Park has a map showing the location of current fires.

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(Originally published at 9:22 a.m. MDT, August 17, 2013)

Alder Fire, August 16, 2013

Alder Fire, August 16, 2013. Photo: Yellowstone National Park

Five lightning-caused wildfires are currently burning in Yellowstone National Park. They are all small or relatively inactive except for two which grew on Thursday and Friday during the warmer and drier weather.

The Alder Fire is on the Promontory Peninsula with Yellowstone Lake on the west, north, and east sides, and an old burn from 1988 on the south. As of Friday evening it had burned approximately 450 acres.

Druid Fire August 16, 2013. Photo by Yellowstone National Park.

Druid Fire August 16, 2013. Photo by Yellowstone National Park.

The Druid Fire has burned about 30 acres on the north aspect of Druid Peak which is near Lamar Valley above the Northeast Entrance Road.

Occasionally the fires can be seen from the two Mt. Washburn web cams, but when checked Saturday morning at 9 a.m. they both had visibility issues due to smoke or clouds.

The Park said all roads, campgrounds, lodging, stores, and visitor services are open. The fires burning within the park at this time pose no threat to visitors or area residents.

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About Bill Gabbert

Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert’s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of WildfireToday.com and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire. If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Google+

6 thoughts on “Fires in Yellowstone

  1. Fire has been apart of my ancestors way of life for thousands of years, i felt honored to have a wildfire career from the 70’s-early 90’s…………..

  2. We visited Yellowstone 27 July to 3 August. It was delightful. Hope there will not be to much destruction due to the fires happening now in the park.

  3. Gosh, the timing of this fire is flabbergasting me, as I am planning
    To be there in two weeks, never in my wildest dreams did I think I
    Would be witness to something so catastrophic, my best to the firefighters, you and the residents human and wild that this tragedy halts swiftly.

    I was wondering if I’m staying at grants village campground and if the fire continues, will the air quality be jeopardized? I also wonder if it’s true that this fire could continue well into the winter months, in as much as I must admit I am ignorant to the parks ebb and flo, it would help to know the particulars, I also read that wildlife becomes erratic and that incidents with animal/human contact becomes more frequent, true or false?

    Thank you for your informative commentary and keen sense of the forest and fires..

    • Deborah – don’t be flabbergasted! This is called late summer in the Northern Rockies, and wildfires are a normal part of our routine here most years, especially in Yellowstone!

      Will there be some air quality issues? Probably, especially in the mornings before the inversion layer lifts, but not likely to be a serious health risk.

      As for your use of the terms “catastrophic” and “disaster”, I happen to disagree with your choice of words: fire is a natural and necessary part of the ecosystem, especially in Yellowstone. Rather than wish it gone or painting these fires in a dark light, read some of the great stories that have been written about the 1988 fires, and then delight in the experience of seeing the power of nature up close, just as you’ll enjoy seeing “Old Faithful”.

      The Park Service has great informational material available about the natural role of fire in Yellowstone, and will prepare you for your upcoming visit. ENJOY!

  4. These fires are quite small compared to 1988 and today’s latest Inciweb update describes fire behavior as minimal and growth potential as low. In other words, these are quite well behaved fires, and they aren’t even requiring a very big fire fighting force (161 fire fighters).

    “The Druid Complex is comprised of five fires. Three of them, Snake, Passage and Alder, are fairly inactive due to recent rains. Alum and Druid retain some heat and do smoke on warm days, but haven’t grown or moved much in a few days. We expect continued damp conditions and higher humidity will continue to keep fire behavior down. Due to Inciweb’s fickle nature, the primary information page for this complex is http://www.druidcomplex.blogspot.com. Please visit us there for maps, pictures, updates and information about fire in the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park.”
    (Picky editor/grammar teacher might say “The Druid Complex comprises/is composed of….”)

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