Several weeks of persistently sunny skies and curing vegetation have pushed Yellowstone National Park’s fire danger to “high” for the first time in 2018.
The higher ranking comes days after lightning sparked the first wildfire of the season near Yellowstone. As of Sunday, the Bacon Rind Fire, just outside the park’s northwest boundary, was burning in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest’s Lee Metcalf Wilderness, about two miles west of Highway 191.
“Smoke from the fire is visible from Highway 191, and the fire poses no threat to the highway at this time,” federal officials wrote on InciWeb, an online wildfire information database. “If you do see smoke from the Bacon Rind Fire, please remember to stay focused on driving until you can find a safe place to pull over.”
As of Sunday, the Bacon Rind Fire was 25 acres, but it was spotting in several areas within a 50-acre perimeter. The possibility of standing dead trees falling during ignition was creating a “significant safety concern” for firefighters.
Despite the higher fire danger, Yellowstone has not initiated special restrictions on campfires. Its general campfire safety regulations, which allow open flames only in campground fire rings and at some backcountry sites, still apply.
The fire danger remains moderate in areas covered by the Teton Interagency Fire district, which includes all of Jackson Hole.
No wildfires of significance have burned in the valley this year, though firefighters last week extinguished a diminutive Grand Teton National Park wildfire on the timbered slopes above Beaver Creek. Well to the south near Kemmerer, the Bridger-Teton National Forest on Monday put out a tiny blaze on Commissary Ridge.
A gauge tracked by Teton Interagency Fire that assesses the availability and combustibility of vegetation in the region is registering “high.” That index, called the “energy release component,” recently recorded a 47 on a 1- to 75-point scale on which higher marks mean drier, more flammable conditions.
The gauge is charting in territory slightly below average for the fourth week of July, a reminder that this is peak season for burning in the wildfire-adapted landscape around Jackson Hole.