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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of June 12, 1998

This week, facts about... 10 years ago this month, a series of firestorms ravaged Yellowstone National Park.

Transcript

KNOY: Ten years ago this month, a series of firestorms ravaged Yellowstone National Park. They began in June and kept going until mid-September. By the end, nearly a million acres had been scorched. Most of the fires were started by lightning, so in keeping with the National Park Service's natural burn policy, they were allowed to spread. Some fires went out by themselves, but due to dry weather and winds up to 100 miles per hour, other fires burned out of control and park managers decided to intervene. At the peak point more than 9,500 firefighters were on the scene, but even they weren't able to squelch the flames. Only when a light rain fell in September, were the fires extinguished. The Yellowstone fire of 1988 sparked a controversy that is still smouldering. Some people say firefighters should have been sent in earlier. Others say they shouldn't have been dispatched at all, since fires are a natural process necessary for regenerating the ecosystem and preventing even larger blazes in the future. Despite the damage, native grasses grew back so quickly, that by the following summer most visitors to Yellowstone couldn't tell that the meadows had been burned at all. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

 

 

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