The Quick & The Dead

248 fires started in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 1988, twenty-eight of which erupted inside the National Park.

More than 25,000 firefighters fought the blazes, with as many as 9,000 on duty at any one time.

About 1.2 million acres were scorched. 793,000 (36%) of the Park’s 2,221,800 acres were burned.

Today, a quarter of a century later, dead lodgepole pines can be seen almost everywhere. Many, still standing, are just waiting to topple over.  Some visually interesting juxtapositions of new growth and old are common, too.

dead lodgepole pines in yellowstone

dead trees ynp

We now know of course that fires are beneficial to wilderness areas, as this four minute YouTube video demonstrates.

  🙂 🙂 🙂

5 Replies to “The Quick & The Dead”

  1. So very touching, John. Beautiful Yellowstone. Not just the event but the renewal.
    3 years back, Big Sur fires 25 miles to the south started with lightning strikes. To the east the Cachagua Fires spread within half a mile of home. I lived through what looked like your remarkable film posted here. For weeks the skies were red, choking ash covered everything. The night sky was yellow, flaring into black.
    Overnight a base camp was set up at the old Carmel Valley airport, equipment, tents, food, facilities, five hundred fire fighters in 12 hours. Incredible. The Tassajara Buddhist monks refused to leave and saved their retreat with hoses and prayer (“The Fire Monks”). They were but a dozen of thousands of heroes. Condor and their nestlings rescued. What stories come of these things. Most of California was burning, over 900 fires statewide. And like this film, within a year those scorched hills turned green despite predictions of permanent gloom.
    And yes, the pine cones here too, exploding like small grenades in the heat, seed bursts into the charred earth.
    The false pretentions that forbid clearing underbrush endanger everything. I hope we’ve learned.
    And of course you remind me of those brave and honored 19 ‘hot shots’ we tragically lost last week. And how we love our land and hurt when it is hurt.


    1. It’s a comforting thought for the living, that life goes on. But not, I suspect, so much for the dead. But it does amaze me that so many scorched trees are still (25 years later!) littering the landscape. It takes a while to decay, i guess. And of course all kinds of critters benefit by making their homes in them. Thanks…


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