History - Yellowstone is Burning: Communicating the Story

In 2008, to commemmorate the 20th anniversary of the Yellowstone fires, NPS Fire and Aviation Management, in partnership with the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, commissioned a history project to capture knowledge, lessons learned and memories from the seminal event that changed NPS fire management.

Media coverage of the Yellowstone Fires was controversial. The fires were large, complex and difficult to report. No one, neither reporters nor fire information officers, had seen or even imagined a fire event on this scale before.

Film crew carrying equipment in dense smoke.

Film crew carrying equipment in dense smoke during the 1988 Yellowstone fires. NPS photo by Jeff Henry.

Yellowstone is Burning: Communicating the Story — Introduction

Media coverage of the Yellowstone Fires was controversial. The fires were large, complex and difficult to report. No one, neither reporters nor fire information officers, had seen or even imagined a fire event on this scale before.


Rocky Barker — Let it Burn

Rocky Barker is the Author of Scorched Earth: How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America. In 1988 he covered the Yellowstone fires as a reporter for Idaho Falls Post Register.


Jack DeGolia — You Can Hear it in Their Voice

In 1988, Jack DeGolia was a naturalist at Yellowstone National Park. During the fires, he served as an information officer. He describes working with the public and the emotional reactions evoked by the fires.

Mona Devine — Taking on Responsibility

In this podcast, Mona discusses how her experiences working with the public and the media during 1988 transformed her working methods 12 years later when she was assigned to the Cerro Grande Fire near Los Alamos, New Mexico.


Roger O'Neil: It's the Nature of the Beast

Roger O'Neil has been a reporter for NBC News for over 30 years. In the following podcast, Roger describes his daily routine as a television reporter covering the fires.


Norm Christensen: “Trust Me”

After the 1988 fires in Yellowstone, Dr. Norman Christensen of Duke University was asked to chair a panel of scientists with expertise in disturbance ecology. The report that was issued from that panel's findings reiterated that fire was an “essential component” in parks having fire dependent ecosystems.


Sue Exline & Frank Moshbacher — Fighting Fear

Sue Exline and Frank Moshbacher were both born in Los Angeles, California, and have worked in natural resource management for over 30 years. During 1988, both worked as fire information officers, Frank with Rick Gale's Area Command Team in West Yellowstone and Sue with a Type I Incident Command Team.