Theodore Roosevelt National Park Successfully Conducts Prescribed Fire After Years of Planning

Smoke rises in multiple places from badlands.
Multiple ignition crews working in Beef Corral Wash.

On May 8, 2014, staff of Theodore Roosevelt National Park completed the Beef Corral Wash prescribed fire at the south unit of the park. The 2,750-acre Beef Corral Wash unit is located in Billings County, approximately four miles north of the town of Medora, ND.

Flames and smoke rise as a fire burns through juniper.
Fire is used to reduce encroachment of Rocky Mountain juniper.

The Beef Corral Wash prescribed fire, formerly known as the Jones Creek prescribed fire, has been planned since 2002 and was finally implemented successfully in 2014. This project contained multiple objectives, including reducing hazardous fuels, stimulating new growth, altering grazing patterns of the park’s bison and elk populations, reducing Rocky Mountain juniper encroachment, encouraging fire-dependent plant growth, and restoring fire to a fire-dependent ecosystem that has not seen documented fire in over a century.

The prescribed fire was expected to take two days for implementation and multiple days for all residual smoke to subside. Efficient planning, favorable weather, and excellent interagency cooperation and coordination allowed all ignitions to be completed in a little more than five hours. The following day, the weather conditions assisted firefighters with the mop-up portion of the burn, as the unit received 20 hours of precipitation, which effectively extinguished almost all remaining smokes. Operations were conducted without closing the park’s loop road, and the Jones Creek Trail was reopened the morning after the fire.

Contributors included the National Park Service as the host agency, The Nature Conservancy, US Forest Service, North Dakota State Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The prescribed fire met or exceeded all immediate postburn objectives and will be monitored in the future by fire effects crews to obtain two- and five-year postburn data.

Contact: Rod Skalsky, fire management officer, North Dakota Area Park Group
Email: e-mail us
Phone: (701) 623-4730