Prescribed fire escapes at Devils Tower

Devils Tower prescribed fire
File photo of the Meadow prescribed fire in Devils Tower National Monument, May, 2000. NPS photo by Bill Gabbert.

A few hours after the National Park Service posted a very nice photo on their Facebook page of a prescribed fire at Devils Tower (map) in Wyoming, (which we placed on Wildfire Today) the fire escaped and burned 56 acres outside the project boundary.

Firefighters from the Northern Great Plains unit of the National Park Service ignited the prescribed fire on Tuesday, May 7, but winds on Wednesday caused it to spot across the control line in the afternoon, burning 56 unplanned acres in the southwest part of the Monument. The original intent was to treat 300 acres with fire.

Named Belle Fourche, the fire damaged a power line, interrupting the electrical service for 15 to 20 residences. The power company restored the electricity later in the day.

Today, Thursday, the fire is 90 percent contained and firefighters are mopping up.

In the interest of full disclosure, Devils Tower was one of the seven National Parks for which I was the Area Fire Management Officer, from 1998 until 2003.

We don’t have the exact number of resources that were on the fire, but we found out that the fire organization ordered breakfast for 115 people on Thursday.

At the automatic weather station at Devils Tower on Tuesday and Wednesday the temperature was in the mid 70s. The relative humidity on Tuesday bottomed out at 17 percent, but was higher on Wednesday at 24 percent.

On Thursday, the day the fire escaped, the wind speed was 5 to 7 mph, with gusts at 13 to 22 mph. The previous day it was 2 to 6 mph, gusting at 10 to 12.

Below is a map showing the approximate location of the planned prescribed fire. The Tower is just outside the project boundary, shaped a little oddly in this Google Earth 3-D rendering.

Devils tower Belle Fourche prescribed fire
Approximate location of the planned Belle Fourche prescribed fire at Devils Tower. The green line is the Monument’s boundary. Wildfire Today map. (click to enlarge)

Thanks go out to Al

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

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