Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

close up of a chainsaw and tree

Yellowstone Engine Foreman and ISA Certified Arborist, Ryan Tripp demonstrates proper technique.

Arboriculture and Defensible Space: A Natural Partnership

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
National Fire Plan, Fuels Reduction*

The removal of green trees in a national park setting is never an endeavor to be undertaken lightly. NPS employees and the public have a strong sense of what defines National Park Service lands, their purpose and symbolism. The removal of vegetation without due cause is unacceptable to those who revere the national park system.

In an effort to increase sensitivity to those emotions, build empathy for the defensible space concept, and create mutually beneficial scenarios melding cultural landscape preservation and defensible space creation objectives, the Yellowstone Fire Management Program entered into an informal partnership with the NPS Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation based in Boston, Massachusetts. The Yellowstone assistant fire management officer and engine foreman have each completed the Arborist Training Program under the mentoring of NPS Arborist, Dan McCarthy. The program involves participation in twelve, one-week projects at various NPS locations throughout the country, classroom training, and a series of written and practical examinations. The program culminates in International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) examination for those students wishing to receive certification, which both Yellowstone participants chose to do. Their participation has resulted in enhanced understanding of project design considerations that have greatly improved empathy between fire personnel, cultural and natural resource managers, landscape architects and other project stakeholders. Concepts such as screening maintenance, tree preservation during construction, soil protection alternatives, and cultural landscape preservation techniques are all being folded into defensible space project design.

The partnership has also resulted in Yellowstone hosting two training sessions for Olmsted Arborist classes. The first was the hazardous fuels reduction defensible space project at Winter Creek cabin in 2003. The second was the stabilization of tree hazards in the Fort Yellowstone Historic district in October 2008. Other benefits to Yellowstone include enhanced safety in tree falling and chipping operations, increased biomass utilization, and enhanced project design credibility with park managers, resource specialists and other subject matter experts. Fire personnel continue to explore opportunities for new partnerships based on this successful initiative.

Contact: Andy Mitchell, Assistant Fire Management Officer
Phone: (307) 344-2182

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.