Sounds of a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park

Maple Fire
A scene from the Maple Fire in Yellowstone National Park, August 14, 2016.
National Park Service photo by Jennifer Jerrett.

The National Park Service recorded audio of flames spreading at the heel, or the back side, of the Maple Fire August 8, 2016 in Yellowstone National Park. Recorded from about 15 feet away, the fire activity was not extremely intense, but at about 14 seconds, you’ll hear a small clump of lodgepole pine trees burst into flames, or “torch.” In listening to the 60-second audio file below, you might want to turn up the volume.

The Maple Fire burned over 40,000 acres northeast of West Yellowstone, Montana.

Maple Fire burns at Yellowstone National Park
The Maple Fire burns at Yellowstone National Park in 2016. The fire affected forests recovering from the park’s historic 1988 fires. National Park Service photo by Jennifer Jerrett. 
map Maple fire
The red line was the perimeter of the Maple Fire at 9 p.m. MDT Sept 2, 2016. The white line was the perimeter on August 29.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Maple Fire”.

Lookout tower in Yellowstone burns

Mt Holmes lookout burned
Mt. Holmes Lookout in Yellowstone National Park burned Tuesday, July 16, 2019. NPS photo.

The historic Mount Holmes Fire Lookout burned in Yellowstone National Park Tuesday after being struck by lightning. It had not been regularly staffed since 2007. The fire was reported Tuesday by the employee who staffs the Mount Washburn Fire Lookout.

The lookout is in the northwest corner of the park southwest of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Mt Holmes lookout
Mt Holmes lookout in 1975; NPS photo by RJK.

The structure fire also damaged a park radio repeater.

Wednesday morning, July 17, three employees including the park fire chief attempted to fly to the 10,000-foot lookout via helicopter to assess the damage. However, the flight was diverted to a higher priority incident outside the park. While en route, the helicopter manager snapped a photo of the burned lookout.
Wednesday afternoon, staff attempted to fly to the lookout again but were grounded due to strong winds. Additional attempts will be made in the next few days.

“Built in 1931, and renovated in 1998, the Mount Holmes Fire Lookout maintained its historic-era role as one of Yellowstone National Park’s staffed lookout stations until 2007″,said Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney. “The building was eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, both for its significance in early park resource protection efforts, and as an outstanding example of the rustic architectural style that typified early park architecture. We are disappointed that this historic structure, as a window into the past, is gone.”

The Mount Washburn Fire Lookout is currently staffed seven days a week, mid-June through mid-September. If warranted, three additional lookouts can be staffed.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Mr.Capt. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Resilience of Yellowstone’s forests tested by unprecedented fire

In 2016 some areas in Yellowstone National Park that burned in the 1988 fires unexpectedly burned again, and with surprising intensity

Maple Fire burns at Yellowstone National Park
The Maple Fire burns at Yellowstone National Park in 2016. The fire affected forests recovering from the park’s historic 1988 fires. PHOTO: NATIONAL PARK SERVICE / JENNIFER JERRETT

By Kelly April Tyrrell, University of Wisconsin

In August 2016, areas of Yellowstone National Park that burned in 1988 burned again. Shortly after, in October 2016, ecologist Monica Turner and her team of graduate students visited the park to begin to assess the landscape.

“We saw these areas where everything was combusted and we hadn’t seen that previously,” says Turner, a professor of integrative biology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison who has closely studied Yellowstone’s response to fire since 1988. “That was surprising.”

In a study published this week [May 20, 2019] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Turner and her team describe what happens when Yellowstone —  adapted to recurring fires every 100 to 300 years — instead burns twice in fewer than 30 years. Yellowstone as we know it faces an uncertain future, the researchers say, and one of the big questions they hope to answer is whether the forests can recover.

yellowstone fires reburn
The pile of rocks with the nail in the middle signifies a long-term study plot Monica Turner and her research group established at Yellowstone National Park in 1990 following the park’s historic 1988 fires. This same plot burned again in 2016. Historically, fires burn in Yellowstone only every 100 to 300 years. PHOTO BY: MONICA TURNER

With Rapid Response Research funding from the National Science Foundation, Turner and her team returned to Yellowstone in the summer of 2017 to study the areas that re-burned. These include the Maple Fire, which burned 28-year-old lodgepole pines that regenerated following the 1988 North Fork Fire, and the Berry Fire, which contained 28-year-old lodgepole pines that had regenerated after the 1988 Huck Fire and 16-year-old trees that regenerated following the 2000 Glade Fire.

In each area, they compared to areas that burned in 1988 or 2000 but did not burn again in 2016.

Continue reading “Resilience of Yellowstone’s forests tested by unprecedented fire”

Has Yellowstone “recovered” from the 1988 wildfires?

Yellowstone National Park 1988 wildfires
Yellowstone National Park fires in 1988. NPS.

We often hear about an area “recovering” from a wildfire. This implies that fire is unfortunate and unwelcome, a sentiment probably based on an instinctive fear. And it should go without saying — fires that burn structures or humans fit that description.

But vegetation fires in remote areas should be evaluated with different criteria. Yes, a fire can drastically change the appearance of a landscape. Most people visiting national parks, for example, would prefer to take pictures of a mature green forest than a recently burned hillside that is beginning a new fire return cycle. But those two ends of the cycle and everything in between are natural.

In 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park caused mostly by lightning burned 793,880 acres, 36 percent of the park, during windy weather following a dry spring and summer. Today I saw an article that was focused on to what degree the vegetation had “recovered” from those fires 30 years ago. The emphasis was how much the landscape looked like it did before the fires of 1988. One might say that a lodgepole forest that burned at the end of its 50 to 300 year fire return interval had recovered the day after the embers cooled.

The photo below taken in 2003 in Yellowstone National Park in an area that burned in 1988 shows the regrowth of the forest in just 15 years.

yellowstone, thermal feature, trees,
Steam rises from a new Yellowstone National Park thermal feature in an area burned 15 years after the 1988 fires. The brown trees were killed by the sudden development of the high temperatures. Photo by Bill Gabbert, September 14, 2003.

Below are satellite photos provided by the US Geological Survey of the Yellowstone area taken a year before, just after, and 30 years after the 1988 fires. The red areas are not the actual color of the vegetation, but represent the areas where the fires burned, as detected by shortwave infrared, near-infrared, and visible green sensors on a satellite. As the vegetation changes, light green areas start replacing the red and pink from the burn scar.

Yellowstone National Park 1988 wildfires
September 22, 1987

Continue reading “Has Yellowstone “recovered” from the 1988 wildfires?”

Fire studies at Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks

Above: A bison in Yellowstone National Park, May 25, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Two recent and ongoing studies at the two big “Y” parks are yielding results about fire behavior and the effects of naturally occurring fire. The excerpts below are both from Phys.org.

The first is about allowing wildfires to burn at Yosemite National Park, rather than suppressing them:

An unprecedented 40-year experiment in a 40,000-acre valley of Yosemite National Park strongly supports the idea that managing fire, rather than suppressing it, makes wilderness areas more resilient to fire, with the added benefit of increased water availability and resistance to drought.

After a three-year, on-the-ground assessment of the park’s Illilouette Creek basin, University of California, Berkeley researchers concluded that a strategy dating to 1973 of managing wildfires with minimal suppression and almost no preemptive, so-called prescribed burns has created a landscape more resistant to catastrophic fire, with more diverse vegetation and forest structure and increased water storage, mostly in the form of meadows in areas cleared by fires.

“When fire is not suppressed, you get all these benefits: increased stream flow, increased downstream water availability, increased soil moisture, which improves habitat for the plants within the watershed. And it increases the drought resistance of the remaining trees and also increases the fire resilience because you have created these natural firebreaks,” said Gabrielle Boisramé, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and first author of the study…

The next article covers a study into the fire behavior of this summer’s fires that spread through the footprints of the 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park.

…”Largely up until this point, fire has not necessarily carried well through the ’88 fire scars,” Yellowstone fire ecologist Becky Smith said. “I mean, it definitely has before, but it usually takes very specific conditions, like high winds or a very specific fuel bed. But this year, we’re definitely seeing it burn much more readily in the ’88 fire scars.”

The park has called in a special federal team that studies fire behavior to find out why.

“We’re trying to use it as a good learning opportunity to try and really narrow our focus on how and when the ’88 fire scars will burn,” Smith said. The 1988 wildfires burned 36 percent of the park.

It’s the first time Yellowstone has used the special team’s services, she said.

The 13-member team is studying two fires burning in the 1988 fire scar. It has deployed special heat-resistant equipment with sensors, cameras and other instruments to measure things like temperature and wind where the fires are burning…

Yellowstone’s Maple Fire slowed by rain and cool weather

Above: Rainbow over the Maple Fire at 9:50 Monday morning, September 5, 2016, as seen from West Yellowstone, MT. Photo by Ray Mines.

Rain on Sunday and Monday accompanied by cool weather has slowed the spread of the Maple Fire that has come within three miles of West Yellowstone, Montana. Since it started on August 8 it has burned 40,443 acres just north of the west entrance road, Highway 20/191.

The small amount of rain on Sunday was followed by about 0.15″ Monday, as recorded at the weather station east of the fire at Madison Junction.

Ray Mines, who took the photo above from the Incident Command Post at West Yellowstone, said it was 34 degrees Monday morning with a wind chill of 28.

Satellites have not been able to find any large heat sources over the fires in the park for the last couple of days. There are no doubt many small ones that the sensors 200 miles overhead can’t detect. But drier weather later in the week will bring the potential for the fire to become more active.

map Maple fire
The red line was the perimeter of the Maple Fire at 9 p.m. MDT Sept 2, 2016. The white line was the perimeter on August 29.

About 200 lightning strikes occurred in the eastern part of Yellowstone Sunday, resulting in at least two new fire starts. The Petrified Fire was near the Petrified Tree west of Tower Junction in a fire suppression zone. Firefighters extinguished the single-tree fire with the help of helicopter water drops. Firefighters are monitoring the one-tenth acre Jasper Fire east of Tower Junction near Specimen Ridge.