Fire danger in Yellowstone National Park has been rated “very high” as wildfires continue to burn across Montana and the American West.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, decreasing plant moisture has bumped up the danger of fire across southwestern Montana as a whole. The fire danger in Bozeman, just north of Yellowstone, is high. Likewise, fire danger is high around West Yellowstone and the Custer Gallatin National Forest.
According to U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Teri Seth, speaking to the Chronicle, the agency avoided upgrading Bozeman’s fire danger since “it hadn’t been sustained long enough to convince fire officials to upgrade the danger level.” Now, however, Bozeman may already be approaching “very high” fire danger.
“Very High” is the second most severe indicator of fire danger for the National Park Service. According to the NPS Fire and Aviation Management division, “Very High” fire danger entails quick-starting fires that spread “faster than suppression resources can travel.”
Currently, there are fire-related restrictions or closures for Yellowstone National Park. Be advised, however, that during periods of high fire danger, residents and visitors are discouraged from burning things outdoors or starting campfires.
As always, fireworks are prohibited within the boundaries of Yellowstone.
The news comes after 2016’s boisterous fire season, which saw the most acres burned around Yellowstone National Park since the 1988 fires. Indeed, Yellowstone has been spared somewhat, as no major fires have sprung up in or around park boundaries. From the Chronicle:
Fire fuels have ripened slower here than in the rest of the state. Mike Richmond, a Missoula-based fire meteorologist with the Northern Rockies Coordinating Center, said that’s because while this summer was especially dry, southwestern Montana and Yellowstone National Park managed to collect some rain in July and August.
“They were getting more wet thunderstorms through July and into August,” Richmond said.
Small fires have popped up here and there around Bozeman, but many have been relatively small. The Bozeman Interagency Dispatch Center’s call log summary says 28 wildfires have been reported, most of which were smaller than an acre.
Crews in Yellowstone National Park have responded to six wildfire calls so far this year. Jonathan Shafer, a park spokesman, said four of those were human caused and two were lightning caused. Shafer said none of them grew past a tenth of an acre.
That hasn’t been the case for much of the rest of the state. Wildfire smoke is choking western Montana. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s air quality monitoring site shows air is unhealthy in towns all over western Montana. Seeley Lake’s air has been deemed hazardous.
According to the Chronicle, this is Montana’s severest fire season since 2012. Indeed, according to Richmond, it’s on pace to surpass 2012 in terms of acres burned.