The historic Mount Holmes Fire Lookout burned to the ground Tuesday after being struck by lightning, and another lightning strike separately started Yellowstone National Park’s first fire of the year.
A park employee working at the Mount Washburn Fire Lookout witnessed and reported the lookout’s late-afternoon fire, park officials said in a press release. The 88-year-old restored lookout building sat at 10,000 feet in elevation, southwest of Mammoth Hot Springs and north of Madison Junction. The fire also damaged a park radio repeater but did not spread into the surrounding landscape.
The very next day, Yellowstone’s first wildfire of 2019 was detected by hikers on Seven Mile Hole Trail. Tiny, at just a tenth of an acre, the 7 Mile Hole Fire is believed also to have been ignited by lightning. The blaze is smoldering on a steep, timbered slope just above the Yellowstone River, photos show.
At press time Thursday, there were no plans to suppress the backcountry wildfire, which can be monitored from the canyon rim and is not considered a threat to the public.
The morning after the Mount Holmes Fire Lookout burned, three Yellowstone employees attempted to assess the damage via helicopter, but it was diverted to a higher priority incident outside the park. While en route, the helicopter manager took a photo of the burned lookout. Later Wednesday afternoon, staff attempted to fly to the lookout again but were grounded due to strong winds. Park officials have since hiked in, taking photos that show all that’s left is the lookout’s foundation.
As of press time Thursday, the Mount Holmes Trail west of the junction with the Trilobite Lake Trail and the summit of Mount Holmes were closed. The closure was to remain in effect until further notice.
The Mount Holmes Fire Lookout was built in 1931, renovated in 1998 and staffed as a functional lookout until 2007. It was eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We are disappointed that this historic structure, as a window into the past, is gone,” Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney said in a statement.
Teton Interagency Fire lists four small natural wildfires that have started within its district, which includes Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Two are tenth-of-an-acre Wyoming Range blazes that lightning sparked the first week of July. In the Snake River Range, hikers discovered a 1-acre blaze July 10 on Red Peak. Firefighters put that blaze out using a 55-gallon blivet.
Last weekend, hikers extinguished a two-tree fire on the shores of Goodwin Lake that ran out of a dispersed camper’s fire ring.
“We at Teton Fire ask and remind all visitors who have campfires to please remain vigilant and put all campfires out and cold to the touch,” firefighters wrote in an incident report.
The Teton Interagency Fire website lists 75 abandoned campfires found in its district this year.