A barrage of lightning strikes -- nearly 700 in a 24-hour period -- has ignited six wildfires in Yellowstone National Park, though none are more than one acre in size.
Park officials said Saturday that recent thunderstorms "packed with lightning" added a sixth small fire to the five currently being managed since August 25 as the "Heart Complex." From Thursday into Friday more than 660 lightning strikes were recorded in the park, officials said.
The 0.1-acre Prospect Fire, located one mile southwest of Tower Village, was spotted Friday afternoon. It was to be suppressed Saturday using three Yellowstone wildland firefighters supported by helicopter bucket work because of its proximity to the developed Tower Village concessioner and campground areas, the continuous fuels available in the area and the prevailing southwest winds over the fire.
According to a park release, all five Heart Complex fires are small lightning-caused fires burning in the backcountry areas of the park with varying degrees of behavior and growth potential. All but one are approximately one-tenth of an acre or less and all are being managed to allow natural processes to occur to enhance the area’s natural resources, to protect people and property, and to effectively use available firefighting resources.
* Heart Fire. 0.1 acres. Burning one mile to the east of the Heart Lake patrol cabin and a half mile north of Heart Lake and the Continental Divide Trail. Minimal growth and activity was expected Saturday, and moderate potential for growth toward Yellowstone Lake through a mix of fire scars from the past 30 years. Previous plans for structural protection of the patrol cabin have been suspended due to the limited activity of this fire.
* Sour Fire. 0.1 acres. Burning in a single tree along the Wapiti Lake Trail east of Canyon Village on the Mirror Plateau. Fire managers will continually reassess the need for trail and campground closures in proximity to this fire. Temporarily closures are already in place in some nearby backcountry campsites and trail segments.
* Point Fire. 0.1 acres. Burning in one rotting log surrounded by green fuels on the eastern shore of Yellowstone Lake near the Thorofare Trail between Park Point and Elk Point. Low potential for growth while adjacent herbaceous fuels remain green. The area to the east of this fire is dominated by extensive fire history less than 10 years old.
* Huckleberry Fire. 0.1 acres. Burning south of the Snake River and South Boundary Trail two miles from the southern boundary of the park in heavy downed and dead lodgepole pine. Minimal growth and activity Saturday. Moderate to high potential for growth with potential to reach the Teton Wilderness outside the park. Because of its proximity to the park’s South Entrance, a smoke column may be visible from the entrance road.
Outside of the Heart Complex, the Gibbon Fire that has been burning since July 12 covers 6 to 10 acres, the park said. It is located approximately three miles southeast of Madison Junction in mature and regenerated lodgepole pine. Protection measures continued Saturday with the placement of pumps and sprinklers along a power line easement located one mile to the north of the fire. A small smoke column may be visible along the Grand Loop Road between Madison Junction and Gibbon Falls.
An unnamed fire reported August 25 on the Pitchstone Plateau in the southwest corner of the park has not been located. Crews were to continue to fly the area over the next few days to try and locate it.
The fire danger rating in Yellowstone is currently “Very High.” Visitors are encouraged to be careful with campfires, grills, camp stoves and smoking materials. There have been 14 fires reported in Yellowstone this year.
Other than limited temporary closures of some backcountry campsites and hiking trails, all park entrances, roads and services are open. None of these fires pose a threat to park visitors.
The latest information on backcountry access is available by contacting Backcountry Offices throughout the park or by calling 307-344-2160 during normal business hours, seven days a week. When actively burning, smoke from any of these fires may be visible from park roadways. Updated information is available 24-hours a day by calling 307-344-2580, or on the web at http://www.inciweb.org/unit/5382/.