Fire situation update

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 14:02:07 08/29/16

Weather conditions are about to become much more conducive to fire growth. There are three primary weather factors firefighters monitor, relative humidity (RH), temperature, and wind speed. The benchmarks for extreme fire danger are humidity below 20%, temps at or above 80 degrees, and wind speeds above 15 mph.

The two closest NOAA weather forecast points to the Maple Fire are Old Faithful and West Yellowstone. The West Yellowstone current conditions are taken from a monitoring station on Hebgen Lake, which is reading 13% RH, temp of 85, and winds at 2 mph, gusting to 9 mph. The Old Faithful currents are 15% RH, temp of 80, and winds at 6, gusting to 11 mph.

Wind speeds around major wildfires can be tricky, since large fires generate their own convection currents, which can contribute to higher winds. The fires of the Tatanka Complex are teetering on the ragged edge of experiencing that fateful triad of weather conditions. The good news is that the temps are predicted to start dropping on Thursday, and stairstepping down into the low 60s at Old Faithful over the weekend. There is little chance of precipitation until Wednesday-Friday, and even then it is only a 20% chance with isolated thunderstorms. The last time we had them in the forecast (late last week), we wound up with a new ignition (Central Fire) that has grown from a tenth of an acre to 86 acres already.

The latest update on the Maple Fire is linked (below). Highlights include burnout activities around Seven Mile Bridge, where the fire has approached the road, the completion of fuels reduction and structure protection at Madison Junction, continuation of fuels reduction and structure protection at Norris, and the use of a Chinook helicopter to assist firefighting efforts on the northwest edge of the fire. (That is likely in support of efforts to prevent the fire from leaving the park and threatening homes in the Duck Creek subdivision.)

One other variable I check on occasionally is the closing of trails in the vicinity of fires. At this point, with the exception of the Monument Geyser Basin trail, and the Terrace Spring trail, virtually all trails north of the West Entrance road, west of the Grand Loop road, and south of the Bighorn Pass trail, are closed. That includes Grizzly Lake, Mt. Holmes, and Purple Mountain.

In one other "news of note", yesterday they were talking about reopening the South Entrance road on Tuesday. I'm not seeing that in today's updates.

Also, it appears that the normally south-pointing web cam on Mt. Washburn, which has been monitoring the Buffalo Fire has been repositioned to monitor the Maple Fire. Notice I say "appears", because the sky is so smoky, it is hard to be absolutely certain.


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