Aug 30, 2016

Forest fires may be natural, but that doesn’t make them popular

West Yellowstone, MT
USA
by
Rachel Monroe
,
Grist
Photo: Rachel Monroe
Photo: Rachel Monroe

The town of West Yellowstone should have spent last week focusing on the influx of tourists in town to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service, the culminating huzzah of the much-publicized park centennial that’s been taking place all year.

Instead, they’ve been worrying about fire.

The Maple Fire started on Aug. 8 and has burned 33,000 acres inside the park, which makes it the biggest fire inside the park boundary since the massive fires of 1988.

...

By the 1980s, when we stopped putting out every forest fire, we realized what we’d done: Now when fires started, they had all the fuel they needed to burn more extensively. Plus, they were exacerbated by the hotter, drier conditions attributed to climate change. “If you talk to folks who fought fires even 30 or 40 years ago, a 20,000–acre fire was a big deal,” said [Deb Schweizer, a park-service public-information officer. “They’re pretty standard now"