Fires are an essential player in the development of Yellowstone's ecosystems. While some are caused by men, most 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 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.

After 1988 FiresAfter 1988 Fires

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 everywhere, although both plant and animal populations have recovered quickly.

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