Fires approach the Old Faithful
Complex on September 7, 1988
The Yellowstone fires of 1988
collectively formed the largest wildfire
in the recorded history of Yellowstone National Park
in the United States. Starting as many smaller individual fires, the flames quickly spread out of control due to drought
conditions and increasing winds, combining into one large conflagration which burned for several months. The fires almost destroyed two major visitor destinations and, on September 8, 1988, the entire park closed to all non-emergency personnel for the first time in its history. Only the arrival of cool and moist weather in the late autumn brought the fires to an end. A total of 793,880 acres (3,213 km2
), or 36 percent of the park, was affected by the wildfires.
Thousands of firefighters
fought the fires, assisted by dozens of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft which were used for water and fire retardant
drops. At the peak of the effort, more than 9,000 firefighters were assigned to the park. With fires raging throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
and other areas in the western United States, the staffing levels of the National Park Service
and other land management agencies were inadequate for the situation; more than 4,000 U.S. military
personnel were soon brought in to assist in wildfire suppression
efforts. The firefighting effort cost $120 million ($260 million in 2021). Losses to structures were minimized by concentrating firefighting efforts near major visitor areas, keeping property damage down to $3 million ($7 million as of 2021). No firefighters died while fighting the Yellowstone fires, though there were two fire-related deaths outside the park. (Full article...