North Fork Fire. Yellowstone 1988.

The largest of the Yellowstone area fires of 1988 was the North Fork fire which began in a clearcut on the Targhee National Forest in July when a wood cutter dropped his cigarette.

Although it was immediately attacked with all available fire control methods, the fire rapidly burned eastward into the Park. It burned heavily until mid-September. Its perimeter was over 600,000 acres. At one time it threatened both the Park Headquarters in the north at Mammoth Hot Springs and the Old Faithful area miles to the south.

At the time many locals condemned the Park Service for letting Yellowstone burn down; but this fire disproves all their assumptions. First it was fought immediately and was not a case of letting nature take its course. Second it started in a clearcut.  One of the justifications for the massive clearcutting on the Targhee National Forest adjacent to park had been that it would prevent forest fires. Some folks had wanted to log Yellowstone to prevent fires.  Even years afterward, some, like brown Idaho congressmember Helen Chenoweth, thinks Yellowstone should have been logged off.

northfkfire.jpg (13202 bytes)

North Fork Fire in July 1988 burning along the west boundary of Yellowstone.
In this photo the fire was about 30,000 acres. It grew to 600,000. The
photo was taken from Sawtelle Peak.

Copyright Ralph Maughan 1988