A lightning-ignited fire in Yellowstone National Park has burned across about 300 acres near the Lone Star Geyser, about 3 miles south of Old Faithful, according to park officials. Heavy smoke from …
A lightning-ignited fire in Yellowstone National Park has burned across about 300 acres near the Lone Star Geyser, about 3 miles south of Old Faithful, according to park officials. Heavy smoke from the blaze only added to deteriorating air quality in the area, as smoke poured into northern Wyoming from wildfires in central and northern California.
The Lone Star Fire was first reported just after 5 p.m. Saturday, forcing Yellowstone staff to implement protection measures for the Old Faithful area in case the fire moves toward infrastructure in the park’s most popular natural attraction. The road between Old Faithful and West Thumb through Craig Pass remained closed on Monday due to the fire’s smoke, meaning visitors could only access Old Faithful from the north. Additional resources arrived Monday to assist with the fire.
Changing weather patterns should push much of the smoke in the atmosphere north of the Powell-area by late Tuesday and early Wednesday, according to a forecast by the National Weather Service in Riverton. Micah Hulme, meteorologist for the service, said air quality alerts should end today (Tuesday).
Hulme said the Lone Star Fire shouldn’t produce enough smoke to cause further alerts. “On the bright side, we haven’t had a lot of strong winds” to fan the Yellowstone fire, he said Monday morning.
Lightning activity has been heavy throughout the park this past week and fire danger is rated as very high. In response to the dry conditions, there is a temporary ban on campfires in backcountry campsites and additional backcountry campsites and trail closures around Shoshone Lake and Lone Star Geyser are in effect.
A high fire danger rating means fires can start easily and spread quickly; unattended campfires and brush fires are likely to escape. “Fires can become serious and difficult to control unless they are quickly extinguished,” according to a release from the National Park Service.
When determining fire danger, managers use several indicators such as the moisture content of grasses, shrubs, and trees; projected weather conditions including temperatures and possible wind events; the ability of fire to spread after ignition; and availability of firefighting resources across the country.
In areas where campfires are allowed, fires should never be unattended and must be completely extinguished. The charred remains of a campfire must be repeatedly doused with water and stirred into the campfire ring in order to be completely extinguished. Campers should “cold trail” the remains of the fire, which refers to carefully placing the back of your hand near the ashes and campfire debris to feel for any remaining heat before leaving the site.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has issued a warning to hunters, asking them to be “especially cautious this fall with fire safety.”
With drought conditions impacting much of Wyoming, the smallest spark can start a wildfire that can impact hunting across the state. The department has issued fire restrictions and bans on many commission-owned and administered lands across the state.
“Some of our hunt areas had to close completely in previous years as a result of fires in the area,” said Ray Bredehoft, Wyoming Game and Fish Department habitat and access branch chief.
Fire restrictions in Yellowstone were issued Friday. Charcoal or wood fire campfires that may produce ash or embers are prohibited in the backcountry, including those in established fire rings. Portable gas stoves and lanterns are permitted in areas that are barren or cleared of all overhead and surrounding flammable materials within 3 feet.
Smoking is prohibited in the backcountry and on all trails, except immediately adjacent to the provided fire ring in designated campsites or within a 3-foot-diameter area barren of all flammable material (e.g. standing in water, on a boat).
Smoking in the park is only permitted in an enclosed vehicle, a single-family dwelling, a developed campground, and day-use picnic areas within a 3-foot-diameter area that is barren or cleared of all flammable material. There is no restriction on campfires in designated fire rings in frontcountry developed campgrounds and day-use picnic areas, but all campfires must be cold to the touch before abandoning.
For up-to-date road information in Yellowstone, visit http://go.nps.gov/YellRoads, call 307-344-2117 for a recorded message, or sign up to receive Yellowstone road alerts on your mobile phone by texting “82190” to 888-777.