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.

The Right Thing Times Two

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

Every now and then goals and objectives align so that two much needed projects can be accomplished concurrently. Such an opportunity presented itself in the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery of Yellowstone National Park.

Fort Yellowstone Cemetary before (top) and after (bottom) vegetation management and grave stabalization.

Living in a remote site and an early outpost of civilization in the area, early residents had to be more or less self-sufficient. They took on many trappings of a community including schools, social events and even a cemetery. Established in 1888, the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery is located just uphill from the Mammoth concession trail ride facilities. These facilities include a business kiosk, comfort station, sheds, corral system, and a large barn. The fuels around both the cemetery and the trail ride operation consist of mixed sage, juniper, limber pine, and Douglas-fir.

Due to a variety of circumstances, no vegetation management had been completed in the cemetery for a number of decades. Saplings and brush hid headstones; some mature trees were toppling headstones with their ever-expanding root systems. Fire management staff proposed removing dead and dying trees and thinning remaining stands to create a significant fuel break upwind from the trail ride facilities. The proposal incorporated measures to stop, then correct headstone movement, and restore the cultural aesthetic of the site. In August 2006 fire staff with arboricultural training wrote a hazard tree reduction proposal, followed in 2008 by a vegetation management/grave stabilization plan. They consulted the Olmsted Center for Landscape Architecture for their expertise in cemetery restoration. Park Archeologist Ann Johnson enthusiastically supported the effort. Using base funding only, the Yellowstone fire suppression staff completed the work in phases beginning in 2007 and finishing during the summer of 2009.

Maintenance staff members have joined the effort as partners, contributing grounds maintenance and landscape architectural expertise and activities, and assuming responsibility for structural restoration of the historic fence surrounding the grounds. The park invited the public to participate by painting the fence and completing other activities as part of Yellowstone's Public Lands Day celebrations on September 26, 2009. This project formed a cooperative of many people with diverse interests to do the right thing for our earliest pioneers, as well as current park visitors and infrastructure.

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

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.