Fires, fires, fires

Due to several lightning storms with little, or no rain, there are currently several fires burning in the Tetons and at least eight in Yellowstone. The two fires in the Tetons are the Bearpaw Bay fire and the Third Creek fire. The Bearpaw fire is the significantly larger of the two. It is near the southeast corner of Jackson Lake. It was started by lightning on Sunday, August 30. On September 25th high winds increased the size of the fire to about 350 acres and the Park Service began containment activities on the south east corner of the fire to try to keep it from jumping the main park road. It is currently about 1,500 acres. There are fire crews on the ground creating a firebreak and a crew dumping water from helicopters. Cooler and wetter weather has been forecasted for Tuesday and Wednesday so there is a good chance it will at least slow down.

The Grand Lobby in Jackson Lake Lodge has provided some spectacular views in the afternoon when the winds have been high. The smoke has made the sun a red-orange color that is really spectacular. The fire is on the far side of the lake from the lodge and the reflections of the orange sun on the lake have been breathtaking.

There is also a much smaller fire on the east side of Jackson Lake, the Third Creek fire. It started the same day as the Bearpaw fire but is only 6 acres and does not appear to be growing.

There are also at least 8 fires in Yellowstone right now. The largest and most noticeable one is the Arnica fire which is now over 1,500 acres. It is close to Bridge Bay and forced the Park Service to close that portion of the loop road for several hours on Friday, September 25th.

The Park Service now recognizes fire as part of the natural cycle of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Lodgepole pine, which is the most common species of tree in the area, evolved with fire. In fact, they are so well adapted to fire they actually produce a special type of cone, a serotinous cone that can remain “glued” close with resin for years until a fire melts the resin. These cones allow the pine to automatically reseed the burned area. The only time the Park Service works to contain a fire is when human structures are in danger of burning.

More information is available at http://www.tetonfires.com and http://www.nps.gov/yell/technical/fire/.

Written by Judy Lehmberg

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