Fishhawk Fire grows to over 4,500 acres west of Cody, Wyoming

(UPDATED at 7 p.m. MDT September 4, 2019)

map Fishhawk Fire Cody Yellowstone
Map showing the location of the Fishhawk Fire. The red line was based on a USFS mapping flight at 8:19 p.m. MDT September 3, 2019. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:12 p.m. MDT September 4, 2019.

The red dots on the map above represent heat detected on the Fishhawk Fire by a satellite at 2:12 p.m. MDT September 4, 2019. It is uncertain if they indicate actual surface spread of the fire toward the southwest, or if the heat was detected in an intense convection column in the atmosphere above the fire.

The smoke in the upper atmosphere was blowing off to the east, but perhaps lower level local winds, an up-canyon breeze, could have pushed the smoke and the fire to the south. During the fixed wing mapping flight at 8:19 p.m. on September 3 there was intense fire activity on the south edge of the fire.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Fishhawk Fire, including the most recent, click here.)

The Fishhawk Fire is 38 miles west of Cody, Wyoming, six miles east of the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

Scroll down to see more maps and information.

(UPDATED at 1:42 p.m. MDT September 4, 2019)

map Fishhawk Fire Cody Yellowstone
3-D map showing the location of the Fishhawk Fire at 8:19 p.m. MDT September 3, 2019, looking north.. Based on data collected from a USFS mapping aircraft. The orange shading indicates intense heat.

A mapping flight Tuesday night found that the Fishhawk Fire 38 miles west of Cody, Wyoming spread up to about one-quarter mile in all directions Tuesday except on the east side where it has reached a steep hog-back ridge 10,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team will in-brief Wednesday prior to assuming command of the fire.

The resources assigned to the fire as of Tuesday evening included no hand crews, 3 engines, and 3 helicopters for a total of 29 personnel.

The 4,581-acre fire so far is confined to a north-south drainage that has a similar high elevation ridge on the west side. The fire is not being fully suppressed, so it is possible that firefighters are expecting the 10,000-foot ridges with light fuels to contain the perimeter on the east and west sides.

About 3.5 miles to the north is a highly-traveled highway, 14/16/20, leading from Cody to the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park. If it crosses the highway it would be burning on primarily south-facing slopes which would normally be very conducive to additional fire spread. However it would most likely be burning in the footprint of the 2008 Gunbarrel Fire that burned at least 67,000 acres. The light vegetation in the fire scar would present less resistance to control. Like the Fishhawk Fire, the Gunbarrel Fire was not suppressed. On August 15, 2008 the Shoshone National Forest had a plan for the maximum manageable area to cover 416,000 acres.

Map of the Gunbarrel Fire
Map of the Gunbarrel Fire (bottom-center) August 3, 2008. At the time it was about 22,000 acres. Map from Wildfire Today. Click to enlarge.

In their long term plans, fire managers on the Fishhawk Fire should plan for extreme winds. On August 28, 2008 the Powell Tribune wrote this about the Gunbarrel Fire :

“The winds are just howling,” Clint Dawson said Wednesday, describing the wind’s rate around the Gunbarrel Fire.

Dawson is the zone fire manager for Shoshone National Forest.

In the valley — in the vicinity of the newly-relocated Gunbarrel Fire camp at Buffalo Bill State Park — the wind was gusting to 40-60 mph in the early afternoon on Wednesday. The new incident command camp is just above the reservoir west of Cody.

An aircraft flying over the fire Wednesday reported winds reaching 115 mph at 11,000 feet, Dawson said.

The fire was spotting on the east side of 12,000-foot high Trout Peak, according to an incident report.

Continue reading “Fishhawk Fire grows to over 4,500 acres west of Cody, Wyoming”

Concessionaire employee in Yellowstone sentenced to 3 months in jail for starting wildfire

wildfire near North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
A firefighter attacks a spot fire that jumped across the Gardner River near the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, July 26, 2019. NPS photo taken from near Highway 89.

An employee of one of the concessionaires in Yellowstone National Park was sentenced to three months of incarceration and $5,000 restitution for starting a fire.

Curtis J. Faustich admitted to dropping a lit cigarette on the ground while sitting at a picnic table and igniting the fire. Mr. Faustich appeared Tuesday, August 6, 2019, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming and pleaded guilty.

In addition to incarceration and a fine, upon release he will be subject to two years of unsupervised probation and prohibited from entering Yellowstone National Park for two years.

The fire started at about 6 p.m. on July 26 about one-tenth of a mile southeast of the North Entrance to the park between Highway 89 and the Gardner River 2.3 air miles north of the Montana/Wyoming border. It burned about four acres including a half-acre spot fire on the other side of the River.

map wildfire near North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Map showing the location of the fire that started near the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, July 26, 2019.

In a news release the Park’s law enforcement officers thanked the individuals who called the park’s 24-hour Tip Line at 307-344-2132 and provided timely incident details. The release stated that Mr. Faustich was charged with “discarding a lighted material in a hazardous manner”.

According to court records Mr. Faustich initially was given five citations:

  1. Improper disposal of lighted material.
  2. Failing to report an incident resulting in person injury or property damage.
  3. Knowingly giving false information on application for permit.
  4. Fire left unattended and unextinguished.
  5. Presence in park area when under the influence of alcohol or controlled sub.
wildfire near North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
A fire started near the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, July 26, 2019. NPS photo taken from near Highway 89.

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?”