Fires burn in Yellowstone and near Yosemite

Posted at 8:20 PM, Aug 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-20 22:20:21-04
By Melissa Gray


(CNN) — Four wildfires were burning in Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday, the 25th anniversary of a devastating day in 1988 when massive wildfires in the park suddenly grew by tens of thousands of acres.

The fires now burning in Yellowstone, all of them in Wyoming’s corner of the park, are minimal compared with those of 1988, which ended up affecting almost 800,000 acres — or 36 percent — of park territory.

The largest wildfire Tuesday was the 4,500-acre Alum Fire, burning near the center of the park near Mud Volcano. The lighting-caused fire was discovered last Wednesday and grew quickly over the weekend, but it had limited activity Tuesday, according to InciWeb, a federal website that collects information from agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

The Alum Fire forced a temporary road closure from Canyon Village south to Fishing Bridge, but all other roads leading into and through the park, along with all campgrounds and services, were open, the park said. There were no imminent evacuations for any part of the park.

The most activity Tuesday was with the Alder Fire, another lightning-caused fire that was at 3,000 acres and growing. It was burning on a peninsula at the south end of Yellowstone Lake, however, so it is hemmed in by water on three sides and by a recently burned area to the south, InciWeb said.

Two other fires in Yellowstone, also caused by lightning, were modest by comparison: The Snake Fire, burning near the park’s south entrance along the boundary with Grand Teton National Park, was at 200 acres; and the Druid Fire, near the park’s northeast entrance, was at 100 acres.

A much larger fire was burning Tuesday in California in the Stanislaus National Forest, just east of Yosemite National Park.

The Rim fire measured more than 10,000 acres and was 0% contained Tuesday, InciWeb reported. It was burning in inaccessible and steep terrain, hampering firefighting efforts.

The fire recently moved south over Highway 120, in the southern part of the forest, forcing the closure of part of the road and evacuations in the nearby town of Buck Meadows.

No westbound traffic was being allowed out of Yosemite because of the fire.

In the summer of 1988, more than 50 wildfires — most of them caused by lightning — burned at Yellowstone, marshaling the largest firefighting effort ever seen in the United States up to that time.

No humans died, but about 300 large animals were killed.

The first fire that year began June 14, and new fires popped up every week, if not every day. August 20 was the worst single day of that summer; warm and heavy winds helped the fire burn more than 150,000 acres on a day later known as “Black Saturday.”

Snow and rain finally fell Sept. 11 of that year, marking the beginning of the end of Yellowstone’s worst summer of fires.

CNN’s Dave Alsup and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.

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