Lewis River Canyon was no match for the powerful winds driving the fires of 1988. Gusts up to 80 MPH propelled flames through drought-stricken vegetation. Firebrands rose from the inferno and rode the wind, jumping Lewis River Canyon to ignite spot fires and continue blazing. In 1988 between a third and half of Yellowstone’s park land was consumed by fire.
Lessons were learned. Forest fires are no longer viewed as preventable. Fire prevention practices only delay the inevitable, which when it comes is much worse for the waiting. Lodge Pole Pines, the dominant tree species of Yellowstone, has adapted to fire. New trees are naturally reseeded after a forest fire. They grow fast and thrive, crowding out the competition. There were several smaller fires going on in Yellowstone while we were there. These were managed. There were also controlled burns that were going on during our visit.