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.

2013 Fire Stories by Park

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Acadia National Park, Maine

International Cooperation in the North Country (FY 13)* The successful completion of a wildland fire engine loan from one agency to another was made possible by the collaboration of numerous individuals from parks in the Northeast Region of the National Park Service. As a result, PA Model 62 wildland fire engine formerly used by Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area’s fire management program is now on loan to Roosevelt Campobello International Park.

Restoring and Maintaining Cultural Landscapes and Defensible Space with Fire (FY 13)* Over the course of a year, from June 2012 to June 2013, Acadia National Park fire staff has been performing mechanical and prescribed fire fuels projects on Baker Island to provide defensible space and restore and maintain the park's cultural landscape.

Alaska Region, Alaska

Landsat 8 Helps Map Fires during Long, Busy Alaska Fire Season (FY 13)* Remote even by Alaska standards, the Castle Rocks fire plotted approximately 100 miles to the west of Denali park headquarters and 160 miles southwest of Fairbanks. Fire managers used the recently launched Landsat 8 satellite to generate accurate fire perimeter maps for the Castle Rocks fire in a safe and cost-effective manner.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Virginia

Park Conducts the First Growing Season Burn (FY 13)* On September 16-17, 2013, fire management staff from Shenandoah National Park used prescribed fire to treat 84 acres in four fields at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Bandelier and Beyond: Interagency Partnerships for Fire Ecology (FY 13)* The program staff collects both short and long-term data on permanent vegetation and fuel monitoring plots to provide information on fuel reduction and vegetative changes after management treatments. In recent years, Bandelier’s fire ecology program has assisted other local agencies and partners in conducting treatment effectiveness assessments.

Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Huckabee Fire Response (FY 13)* Big Cypress and its partners have been using prescribed fire and managed wildfire for several decades to reduce hazardous fuels and diminish the risk of wildfire to life, property, and resources on DOI lands in south Florida. Working together on planned and unplanned ignitions has brought the programs closer together. The positive working relationships formed throughout the year were the cornerstone of success on the Huckabee Fire.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Wyoming / Montana

Mastication Treatments Help Protect Unique Riparian Habitat (FY 13)* On April 27, 2013 the Big Fork Fire started on private land near the Shoshone River in northern Wyoming and impacted the Bighorn Canyon NRA.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Park Completes Fuels Reduction Project (FY 14)* On October 19, 2013, Bryce Canyon National Park completed a major fuels reduction project around the historic Bryce Canyon Lodge and its associated cabins and infrastructures.

Buffalo National River, Arkansas

Park Conducts Prescribed Fire in Wilderness (FY 13)* On March 6, 2013, Buffalo National River conducted a prescribed fire inside the 11,284 acre Lower Buffalo Wilderness area to reduce the hazardous fuel loads, promote the restoration of post oak savannas and cedar glades areas, lower the risk potential of various forest diseases and improve animal habitat.

Cape Cod National Seashore

Developing a Skilled Fire Management Workforce (FY 13)* AmeriCorps Cape Cod and the Cape Cod National Seashore have partnered in a collaborative fire management program to help meet the fire management goals of the Seashore and implement the Barnstable County Wildfire Preparedness Plan.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma

Multiple Benefits of Prescribed Burning at Chickasaw NRA (FY 13)* In February 2013, Chickasaw National Recreation Area treated approximately 2,380 total acres with a series of prescribed burns in the Five Lakes, Hunting, Point, Golf Course, and South Boundary areas.

Coronado National Memorial, Arizona

Fuels Treatments Help Save Homes and Park Buildings from Wildfire (FY 13)* In June 2011, the Monument Fire started in Coronado National Memorial. Fuel reduction in the years leading up to this fire helped save homes and other structures. Six separate treatments were conducted through 2011.

Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska

Moisture Matters: Fuel Moisture Sampling for Fire Danger and Fire Behavior Predictions (FY 13)* For the past two seasons, fire staff has collected “live” fuels including stems and leaves or needles from shrubs and conifers along with herbaceous plants (grasses) to determine moisture content. Fuel moisture is an essential part of a system of indices that fire managers in Alaska (AK) rely on to estimate fire danger.

Division of Fire and Aviation, Idaho

Students Performing Community Service Honor Fallen Firefighters (FY 13) “For the students, this started as a 2-hour ‘community service project,’ but it ended as a humbling awakening. It was a powerful day and they all, hands-down, loved getting the chance to honor the firefighters who gave all…”

NPS Fire and Aviation Honor Guard Participates In Granite Hotshots Memorial Service (FY 13) Members of the National Park Service Fire and Aviation Honor Guard and a National Park Service representative participated in the July 9th memorial service honoring the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew in Prescott, Arizona.

Fire and Aviation Announces 2012 NPS Fuels and Ecology Program Award Recipients (FY 13) The National Park Service Fuels and Fire Ecology programs have announced the recipients of the 2012 NPS Fuels and Ecology Program awards. Categories included Achievement in Implementing Adaptive Management, Achievement in Promoting Fire-Adapted Human Communities, and Achievement in Restoring and Maintaining Fire-Adapted Ecosystems.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

Agencies Gather for Wildfire Prevention Day (FY 13)* El Malpais fire team members joined with local and area fire crews to present a community outreach event on March 30, 2013 to kick off Wildfire Prevention Week in New Mexico.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Montana Conservation Corps Crew Completes Fuels Projects (FY 13)* Glacier National Park fuels specialist, Brad Harris, worked with a Montana Conservation Corps crew from Kalispell to complete defensible space maintenance surrounding remote park structures as well as those in the front country in June and July 2013.

Interagency Cooperation Leads to Big Prairie Prescribed Fire Success (FY 13)* Glacier National Park fire management teamed up with firefighters from the neighboring Flathead National Forest to conduct an important burn to restore the landscape of Big Prairie in April 2013.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Previous Fuels Treatments Change Fire Behavior at Grand Canyon (FY 13)* Despite extreme conditions, fire behavior on the Halfway fire decreased dramatically as it moved into areas that had experienced fire as often as three times in the past 20 years.

Wildfire at the Canyon: Visiting Our Past to Build Our Future (FY 13)* Current fire management staff at Grand Canyon National Park (GRCA) invited past GRCA fire management officers, ecologists, and prescribed fire specialists to the North Rim in fall 2012 for a field trip to develop a vision for the future of the wildland fire program in the forests on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Grand Teton National Park and Bridger–Teton National Forest, Wyoming

Short-Haul Capable Helicopter and Crew Perform Rescue on Fire (FY 13)* On August 27, 2013, a snag struck a Chena Hotshot while assigned to the Kelley fire on the Sawtooth National Forest. Thanks to the short-haul capable Teton Interagency helicopter and crew members, the hotshot was quickly rescued off the mountain and provided emergency medical care.

Moose Fire Offers Rare Opportunity for Managing Fire (FY 13)* The Moose fire, discovered by smokejumpers en route to another fire on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, offered an opportunity to observe fire behavior in a regime that is not well understood.

Teton Interagency Opens New, Long-Awaited, Dispatch Center (FY 13)* Teton Interagency Dispatch Center (TIDC) dispatchers cut a ribbon March 8, 2013, to celebrate moving into their long-awaited new facility. The new center, which is on the second floor of the Grand Teton National Park Headquarters building, was designed to accommodate and provide sufficient space for the current staff and temporary detailers who are brought in during the summer season.

Know Before You Go Campaign Spreads Like Wildfire (FY 13)* Extreme fire danger and fire restrictions in early July 2012 led the park, forest, and outdoor groups to create a campaign with advertising and PSAs encouraging people to check for fire restrictions before heading into the backcountry.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Canadian Top Prescribed Burn 2013(FY 13)* On May 1, 2013, Great Smoky Mountains National Park began a prescribed burn in the 372 acre Jesse Ridge subunit as part of the 3580 acre Canadian Top Prescribed Fire Plan.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, Alabama

Horseshoe Bend Conducts Prescribed Burns (FY 13)* On March 26, 2013, Horseshoe Bend National Military Park conducted multiple prescribed burns totaling over 400 acres as part of their prescribed fire plan.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana and Midewin Interagency Hotshots, Illinois

Park and Hotshots Conduct Joint Annual Refresher Training (FY 13)* In March 2013, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Fire Management and Midewin Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) conducted several joint training exercises in preparation for the 2013 fire season. Since 2010, the two fire programs have been conducting joint annual fire refreshers for their full-time fire staffs.

Intermountain Region, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Texas

Module Conducts Wildland-Urban Interface Projects Regionwide (FY 13)* In 2013, the Saguaro Wildland Fire Module (WFM) consistently demonstrated vertatility throughout the year, including managing multiple projects simultaneously within Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.

Intermountain Regional Office, New Mexico

Fuel Break to Protect Historic Structure from Wildfire (FY 13)* In 2013, the National Park Service (NPS) implemented a hazard fuels reduction project at the site of the historic Old Santa Fe Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The eight-acre site is managed by the NPS and serves as one of three office buildings for the Intermountain Region.

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Texas

NPS Provides Training to Structural Fire Departments and US Fish and Wildlife Service (FY 13)* In June 2013, two classes were taught to firefighters from Amarillo City Fire Department, Randall County Fire Department and Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge. These two courses, in conjunction with prior training from the National Park Service, increased the wildland fire knowledge of responding firefighters.

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

The 21st Century Fire Education Program (FY 13)* In 2009, Mammoth Cave National Park signed an agreement with Barren County Middle School, partnering with the school to offer three week-long summer camps in conjunction with the school's 21st Century Learning Center. In May 2013, 25 Hot Shots campers met in the park and learned about the fire triangle, fire safety, fire chemistry, and firefighting.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota

Reducing Crown Fire Potential and Mountain Pine Beetle Infestation Using Mechanical Treatments (FY 13)* Mount Rushmore National Memorial acted on a plan to mitigate the impacts of a potential mountain pine beetle infestation and to reduce the crown fire potential at the Memorial.

New River Gorge National River, West Virginia

Maintaining a Native Landscape Through the Use of Prescribed Fire at Sandstone Visitor Center (FY 13)* On April 3, 2013, staff at New River Gorge National River, with assistance from the West Virginia Division of Forestry, Green Sulphur District Volunteer Fire Department, and Notre Dame College student volunteers, conducted the annual grassland prescribed fire at Sandstone Visitor Center.

Noatak National Preserve, Alaska

What Happens after a Tundra Fire? (FY 13)* In 2010, Noatak National Preserve had a record number of fires. These fires provided opportunity to study impacts of burn severity on carbon emissions.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri

Partnership for Prescribed Burning Provides Multiple Benefits (FY 13)* The Thorny Creek prescribed burn was conducted April 5-7, 2013, at Ozark National Scenic Riverways as a partnership effort that resulted in multiple benefits.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Flexible Management Leads to Ecological Benefits (FY 13)* Though the June 2013 Big Meadows fire was managed for protection objectives, management actions provided ecological benefits as part of the outcome.

Fuels Projects Help Protect Cottages on Fern Lake Fire (FY 13)* On December 1, 2012, the Fern Lake Fire spotted into Moraine Park, ran through grass fuels toward the Kaley Cottage housing area and ignited a cabin. Firefighters were successful in saving rest of the structures largely due to several years of hazard fuels and bark beetle mitigation projects in and around the Kaley Cottage housing area that began in 2001.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Wildland Fire Module Provides Nationwide Response Support (FY 13)* The Saguaro Wildland Fire Module (WFM) particpated in more than 20 projects / incidents within Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and California in 2013. Assigments included a diversity of planned and unplanned fire events, mechanical fuel treatments, and over 400 wildfire defensible space structure assessments.

Susan Keys, Saguaro National Park Fire Program Management Assistant, Receives Jeanie Harris Award (FY 13) Susan Keys, the fire program management assistant at Saguaro National Park, has been selected as the recipient of the 2013 Jeanie Harris Award which was established in 2004 to commemorate the legacy of service of Jeanie Harris, an Intermountain Region fire budget analyst.

Prescribed Burning Reduces Fuels at Saguaro National Park (FY 13)* In May, 2010, Saguaro National Park used prescribed fire to treat about 114 acres of high elevation ponderosa pine forest. It was the latest in a series of burns in the park going back to 1996.

Herbicides Effective on Invasive Grass Changing the Fire Regime of the Sonoran Desert (FY 13)* Saguaro National Park has been fighting buffelgrass since the early 1990’s. As of 2013, buffelgrass has been largely removed from over 500 acres within the park. Where it has been removed, native plant communities have responded well, and native plants are reoccupying areas where many had been suppressed or outcompeted by buffelgrass.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California

No Houses Destroyed: Springs Fire Burns 24,000 Acres in the Southern California Wildland Urban Interface (FY 13)* On May 2, 2013, the Springs fire started during conditions which Southern California does not usually experience until late summer or fall. Cooperating agencies coming together and working side by side during extreme fire conditions is vital to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and this was the case during the Springs fire.

Saratoga National Historical Park, New York

Restoring and Maintaining Cultural Landscapes and Defensive Spaces with Fire (FY 13)* For the past two decades, Saratoga National Historical Park has used fire to create defensible space around park facilities while also restoring and maintaining critical cultural landscapes.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California

Windy Peak Fire: Response Considers National Fire Situation (FY 13)* The Windy Peak fire was discovered during a reconnaissance flight on August 23, 2013. This lightning-caused fire was a “sleeper” or holdover fire from lightning storms earlier in the week.

Park Ridge Lookout Added to National Historic Lookout Register (FY 13) On Saturday, August 3, 2013, thirty people gathered at a ceremony at Park Ridge Lookout in Kings Canyon National Park to honor the recent addition of the lookout to the National Historic Lookout Register.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Evaluating Ecological Impacts of the 2012 Neighbor Mountain Fire (FY 13)* NPS Northeast and Southeast region fire effects crews conducted field reconnaissance and gathered data evaluating the ecological effects of Shenandoah’s 2012 Neighbor Mountain fire.

Park Conducts Prescribed Fire for Resource Benefits (FY 13)* On April 10, 2013, personnel from the Northeast Region completed the 500-acre Jarman Gap prescribed fire at Shenandoah National Park. The objectives of the prescribed fire included the restoration of dry oak and pine communities, and the reduction of hazardous fuels in the urban interface landscape.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Wrangell-St. Elias Residents and Fire Staff Create Firewise Zone (FY 13)* Concerned about fire risk, proactive landowners near Wrangell-St. Elias removed flammable vegetation around their property and requested NPS fire professionals reduce vegetation on NPS lands adjacent to their property.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone Manages Multiple Fires with Flexible Strategy (FY 13)* In August 2013, a series of thunderstorms ignited six fires scattered throughout the 2.2 million acre park. Park management agreed to manage the fires by monitoring and providing point protection to infrastructure while reaping the resource benefits.

Yellowstone 1988: A 25th Anniversary Retrospective (FY 13) The 1988 Yellowstone fires were the most significant fires to ever occur in a national park, and an event that would in many ways transform fire management throughout the country.

Zion National Park, Utah

Clear Trap Prescribed Fire (FY 13)* In late May, 2013, fire management personnel from Zion National Park, with cooperation from interagency partners, completed the Clear Trap prescribed fire project located along the park’s eastern boundary.

*Indicates story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.