Photo Credit: VacationIdea

Fires are an essential player in the development of Yellowstone's ecosystems. While some are caused by men, most fires occur naturally when lightning strikes. When you drive through acres and acres of Yellowstone that were destroyed by wildfire, you realize what a landscape-changing event this is.

Certain species such as lodgepole pine need the heat of a wildfire to open their cones and disperse the seeds within. Other species such as Douglas-fir have very thick bark that insulates the tree against heat and protects it during a fire.

The largest Yellowstone fires in the recent history took place in the summer of 1988. About 36% of the park’s 2,221,800 acres were burned and several structures were destroyed as the fires could not be contained. Today, park visitors can see the effects of this fire everywhere, although both plant and animal populations have recovered quickly.

Following the 1988 fired, fire management plans for national parks and forests were revised across the nation. Naturally occurring fires are allowed to burn today under stricter guidelines.