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.

Feller/buncher on the Arnica Fire.

Logging Equipment in a National Park!

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
National Fire Plan, Rehabilitation*

During September 2009, the Arnica fire burned across 1.8 miles of Yellowstone Park's Grand Loop Road, and sections of a commercial power line, prompting the park to close the road due to risk from unstable trees. This adversely impacted visitor access, emergency services response, and logistical support for park operations. The park management team determined it was imperative to safely and expeditiously open the road in the fire impacted area. They conducted feasibility studies of various strategies and decided to utilize six contract feller/bunchers, organized as a task force, to attain goals of speed, safety and aesthetics. A red-carded archeologist and resource advisors conducted a ground survey of the treatment area and flagged sensitive areas. All machines were working by noon on October 1.

The project was intended to eliminate all burned tree hazards while creating the appearance of a burned forest with smaller stems still standing and the remainder cut and laid, resembling a fire-generated downfall or a blowdown event. Each operator contributed his own interpretation of what a blowdown should look like and used their previously cut trees as slash mats to reduce soil impacts. Four machines shut down overnight at 6:00 p.m. The remaining two switched operators and cleared hazard trees from the Northwestern Energy power-line corridor through the night and into the next day. Northwestern Energy agreed to assume the costs of operation at the shift change. Four machines continued clearing the road corridor, finishing the project at 6:00 p.m. on October 2. The park opened the road without restriction and initiated a 24-hour engine patrol to enhance safety.

From conception to demobilization, the project took five days to complete. Total cost was $138,000 for the NPS and $12,000 for Northwestern Energy. Resource management staff hand raked tracks after project completion to fluff the soil to improve seed viability and aesthetics. The treated area resembles a blowdown, but has some harsh characteristics. Time and snow load should soften the look.

The use of logging equipment, specifically feller/bunchers, to mitigate fire-related roadside tree hazards is unprecedented in Yellowstone National Park. While not a panacea for all situations, they exceeded expectations on this incident.

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

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.