More than 250 people attended the fire meeting held at the Union Pacific Dining Hall in West Yellowstone, MT.
We previously reported the meeting had been scheduled to answer questions and address concerns from residents regarding the fires currently burning in Yellowstone National Park. Of special interest to the residents of West Yellowstone: Maple Fire, which has grown substantially and is currently near the West Entrance Road.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, due to Maple Fire’s growth, it is no longer considered a part of the Tatanka (Buffalo) Complex (Buffalo and Fawn Fires). A Type 2 Incident Management Team will assume responsibility for the fire sometime this week.
The main focus, according to John Cataldo, a fire management officer speaking to the Chronicle, is to ensure the fire does not creep or sweep toward West Yellowstone:
The Maple fire started two weeks ago and is burning heavy, old growth timber. It has burned south toward the Madison River and is nearing the entrance road, but officials said Monday that the road is still open and that they expect to keep it open.
Fire behavior analyst Michael Dardis said that while fire weather conditions are expected to improve over the next couple of days, they “expect fire to continue and burn actively in mature timber.”
On the eastern and northeastern flanks, officials plan to let the fire run its natural course until it starts to threaten structures near the Madison or Norris areas. Cataldo said that as the fire moves toward Mount Holmes, which is just northwest of Norris Geyser Basin, the fire will hit “unfavorable fuels,” like scree fields and rock.
On the west side, burnouts are planned for when the fire moves farther in that direction. They are waiting for it to move farther west before starting the burnouts because it is burning an “impenetrable lodgepole thicket,” Cataldo said, and it wouldn’t be safe to send crews into it.
“Every inch this thing chews a little closer,” Cataldo said. “It’s putting things in our favor as firefighters.”
They are hoping that pushing back against the fire with fire will stop it in its tracks, and keep it from inching farther toward West Yellowstone.
Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk, speaking to the Union Pacific crowd, said he has “a lot of confidence” regarding how crews will manage the Maple Fire and other conflagrations. Also in attendance was U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), who called the sight of smoke “an ominous sight,” but sought to reassure residents that the tourism economy wouldn’t be affected.
The meeting also addressed the Boundary Fire, which is (as of writing) 75 percent contained and not expected to grow further. Currently, a 20-person crew is on hand fighting the 192-acre fire.