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.

Teamster Jerry Ryder, and Copper skid logs with a single tree.

Park Uses Horses for Defensible Space,
Wilderness Value Projects

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

Yellowstone National Park has 39 cabins and other buildings on lands managed as wilderness, over half of which are historic. The remainder are critical to the management and preservation of park resources. Two cabins have been lost to wildfire over the course of the last 20 years. The lessons learned during the 1988 fires and subsequent incidents prompted park managers to take aggressive action in creating defensible space by mitigating fuels accumulation at these sites, while honoring wilderness policy and values during treatment implementation. The park has used many mitigation techniques. Among the most successful has been the partnership arrangement with the park corral operations staff and program. They have accommodated fire management personnel by providing tack, transportation, stock and expert assistance in support of numerous wilderness, as well as front country projects.

Initial efforts involved log skidding with a forecart, then a forecart and lifting arch, each drawn by a team of two horses. Turning such a cumbersome arrangement proved extremely difficult in the dense lodgepole forest. While some success was achieved, the best results were using the single tree with choker, or log tongs, and a teamster with an assistant to attach the log, and act as a lookout for the teamster. A quarter horse-draft horse cross has been used to skid hundreds of logs.

Utilization is a critical element of the Yellowstone fuels management program. Every effort is made to find a use for biomass generated by treatment efforts. Horse logging in the front country has yielded cabin logs, firewood, corral posts and rails, and logs for erosion barriers. Wilderness utilization is confined largely to firewood with some logs reserved for on-site projects. The park plans to continue expanding and developing these traditional techniques.

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

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.