Alice Kreit/NPR/Sources: National Park Service, Yellowstone.net
Enlarge to see the areas of Yellowstone burned in the 1988 fires.
Enlarge to see the areas of Yellowstone burned in the 1988 fires. Alice Kreit/NPR/Sources: National Park Service, Yellowstone.net
Jim Peaco/National Park Service
Burned tress along Yellowston'e Blacktail Plateau, among some 1.2 million acres burned in the fires of 1988.
Burned tress along Yellowston'e Blacktail Plateau, among some 1.2 million acres burned in the fires of 1988. Jim Peaco/National Park Service
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the massive 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park. Extreme summer drought and high winds helped fan the flames, which began in June and weren't fully extinguished until the snows came in November.
In the end, the fires burned close to 1.2 million acres across the greater Yellowstone area. People all around the country worried that this American treasure would be permanently damaged.
The national media reflected this sentiment with headlines like: "Playing God in Yellowstone: The Destruction of America's First National Park" and "Did the Park Service Fiddle While Yellowstone Burned?"
But the reality was that the ecosystem benefited from the fires, which were instrumental in the park's renewal.
An outline of the Weekend Edition Sunday series, reported by host Liane Hansen, follows.
In This Series
Yellowstone: An Overview Official park historian Lee Whittlesey gives a thumbnail view of the park's history and its continuing role as a beloved national icon. And former park superintendent Bob Barbee talks about the 1988 fires and what was learned. (Airing Aug. 31)
Memories Of The Yellowstone Fires: Black Saturday Aug. 20, 1988, known as Black Saturday, was the worst single day of the 1988 fires in Yellowstone. Michael Stuckey was fighting fires at the time and tells his story. (Airing Sept. 7)
Memories Of The Yellowstone Fires: Old Faithful Inn The Inn at Old Faithful was built in 1903 and is one of the park's most revered structures. It was almost lost to the fires on Sept. 7, 1988, but was ultimately saved. Historian Ruth Quinn tells the history of the inn and other former park employees share their stories of that day. (Airing Sept. 7)
Yellowstone's Fire Ecology There was a common public misconception that Yellowstone was devastated by the 1988 fires. Vegetation management specialist Roy Renkin explains how these fires were actually quite important for maintaining a healthy environment in the Park. (Airing Sept. 14)
Yellowstone's Future While it's now understood that fires don't pose a lasting threat to the Yellowstone ecosystem, there are other changes in the environment that may provide much more cause for alarm. Paul Hansen, of the Nature Conservancy, discusses the problems posed by development. (Airing Sept. 21)