A year ago, officials with Yellowstone National Park and Custer Gallatin National Forest decided to let the Bacon Rind Fire burn with minimal intervention. Today, that decision is deemed a success.
Located on the western boundary of Yellowstone, the Bacon Rind Fire ended up growing to an estimated 5,200 acres, located 20 miles south of Big Sky and located in both Yellowstone National Park and the Gallatin National Forest. If residents in the area, such as those living in the Black Butte Ranch, would have been threatened, fire authorities would have intervened. And to be sure, the authors were monitoring the Bacon Rind Fire: traffic on Highway 191 was slowed to a posted 45 mph, and a full crew, including a 20-person hand crew, a helicopter and several engines were deployed.
A year later, that decision to let the fire burn, based on the scientific prediction that it would not grow from a low-intensity blaze, is seen as the right one. From the Billings Gazette:
On a tour of parts of the fire and ranch on Tuesday, local forest, park and county officials touted the interagency cooperation in managing the Bacon Rind fire, as well as the interaction with the public….
Fire ecologist Todd Erdody, of the Custer Gallatin National Forest, pointed out places where vegetation was already growing back after last year’s burn and explained that over much of the fire’s path the blaze was moderate in intensity. That will be good for animals like deer and elk who dine on the new growth that springs to life in the ashes of a fire’s nutrient-enriched soil. Woodpeckers also move into recently burned forests, and the cavities they hollow out attract songbirds, Erdody said….
Fires also have the ability to remove dead trees and help species like lodgepole pine and whitebark pine take root.
Fine management is now a science, to be sure. And in this case, the science worked.
Image of Bacon Rind Fire courtesy InciWeb.