Monday, September 2, 2013

9/2/13 9 a.m.: Druid Complex Fire Update

Monday, September 2, 2013 – 9:00 a.m.

Of six lightning-caused fires in Yellowstone Park, only one showed widespread activity in Sunday’s dry weather.  Sunday afternoon, the 7097 acre Alum Fire responded to low relative humidity and sunny skies by producing intermittent smoke columns visible from Hayden Valley overlooks and the Mud Volcano area.  A few groups of live trees flared for about a minute each as they torched, sending quick pillars of dark smoke skyward amid whiter smoke from smoldering dead logs and roots on the hillside.  Many holiday visitors shared surprise that they got to view a real Yellowstone wildfire.  From Mud Volcano, the smoke often resembled steam from thermal features.

Despite its show of strength, the Alum Fire lost energy as the sun sank.  Fire managers had expected that the fire might gain enough momentum to reach the Grand Loop Road between Fishing Bridge Junction and the Mud Volcano, and thus might force a tourist-annoying road closure.  However, the fire grew only a few acres, and Labor Day park visitors could complete their routes as they planned. 

Monday, clouds herald a new weather pattern moving into the Yellowstone region.  The new system will bring the region increasing humidity and wind Monday, and the potential for several days of short showers or thunderstorms. 

Many visitors still ask why firefighters are not extinguishing the smokes they see.  Yellowstone is a living laboratory for natural processes, where firefighters try to allow fire to play the role that it did before the park was created in 1872.  Crews suppress all human-caused fires such as from cars or powerlines, but respect the growth of most lightning-caused fires, except when public safety or developed areas are at risk.  In the lodgepole pine forest that covers much of the park, mature trees reseed the landscape when they burn. 

Other fires in the Druid Complex were less active on Sunday.  Those fires include the Druid, Alder, Snake, Passage, and Caldron Fires.  None shows more than an occasional puff of smoke.  Any of these fires may continue to smolder through damp weather and reignite when dry, windy days return.

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