What Do You Mean By.........?

This page is where you will find explanations for the terminology and tactics we use in wildland fire.  Please scroll down to catch our many definitions, and email us if you would like anything else explained in more detail.

A fire needs three components to survive: oxygen, heat, and fuel.

Have you ever put out a candle by closing your fingers quickly over the flame? The reason the candle goes out is because you're removing one of the fire's three critical needs: oxygen. In contrast, if you've ever built a campfire, you know that you can make the fire grow by fanning it a little bit.

Wildland firefighters don't have much control over how much oxygen there is in the atmosphere, but they can sometimes suffocate tiny smoldering fires ("hot spots") by throwing dirt on them, or larger areas with retardant.

The second component, heat, is also critical to the survival and growth of fires. The heat that fuels wildland fires comes from the sun. During hotter days, fires may grow larger more quickly. Fires tend to flare up in the late afternoon, and slow down at night and in the morning.

Wildland firefighters also don't have much control over local temperatures, but they can strategically fight fires at times when it's more likely they'll have success. Sometimes fire managers ask crews to work at night, when the fire is less active.

The third component, fuel, refers to the grasses, brush, trees that a fire burns during the combustion process. Different fuels burn at different rates, and result in different kinds of fire behavior.

When firefighting crews are "building line" or "removing fuels," it means they clearing an area of brush or trees. Natural or human-made features, like meadows, rock screes, or asphalt roads, can serve as pre-existing fuel breaks. Without fuels, a fire can't continue to grow and move.


The National Weather Service issues different types of severe weather warnings, including floods, avalanches, blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes. A Red Flag Warning alerts land managers that fire danger will significantly increase within a certain geographic area and period of time. Red Flag Warnings can include specifics such as sustained high temperatures, strong winds, and lightning.

When land managers know that fire potential is high, they can strategically position fire fighters and resources. Meterologists and fire weather experts play critical roles in every fire prevention program.


A feller buncher removes fuel from a heavily wooded area
When it comes to fighting wildfire, the safety and protection of firefighters, Yellowstone National Park employees, and visitors is always our number one concern.

Fire managers use various strategies to protect people and resources. One of these strategies is to create defensible space near the fire by removing fuels.

 A feller buncher, or motorized vehicle with a cutting attachment, can be a helpful tool in heavily wooded areas. Druid Complex fire managers are using feller bunchers as a suppression tool to create a buffer zone between the south and southwest flanks of the Alum fire and valuable resources and structures in the Lake Village government area.  This area includes employee homes and both modern and historic structures and equipment of the utmost importance to the daily operations of Yellowstone.

The use of feller bunchers is a safer, more efficient and more cost-effective method of tree removal than the use of a sawyer crew on the ground.

The area of tree removal is located in an old-growth, mature forest that poses the most threat to the Lake developed area should the fire activity resume its course in that direction.  Approximately 20 acres of trees will be removed, or an area about 1 mile long by 150 feet wide.  This includes part of a powerline corridor.

Lake District Ranger Brad Ross works with firefighters on
plans to create defensible space.
The removed trees will be transported on contractor vehicles to an area south of Bridge Bay called the Arnica Fire Gravel Pit where they will be stacked and stored.  Their ultimate destination is undetermined at this point, but several re-use options are being considered.

The last time we had to remove standing trees in Yellowstone due to a fire was for hazard tree removal operations on the Arnica Fire on the northwestern lake shore in 2009.

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