Grand Teton National Park Raises Fire Danger to ‘High’

by Amy Myers

As of Tuesday, September 6, Grand Teton National Park has raised the fire danger to High (yellow). In addition to the national park, the new rating is in effect for the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the National Elk Refuge.

Previously, beginning August 10, the fire danger rating for the park was at Moderate (blue), meaning that there was some risk of wildfires, however, according to the National Park Service, control of the flames is still “relatively easy” and takes “moderate” mop up.

A High rating now means that wildfires are more likely and may spark in areas with heavy brush such as mature grasslands, weed fields, and forest litter. Add strong winds to the mix, and these flames will be difficult for fire crews to contain.

“A high fire danger rating means fires can start easily and spread quickly,” Grand Teton National Park explained in an official release. “When determining fire danger, fire managers use several indicators such as the moisture content of grasses, shrubs, and trees; projected weather conditions including temperatures and possible wind events; the ability of fire to spread after ignition; and availability of firefighting resources across the country.”

Grand Teton National Park Stresses Campfire Safety During High Fire Danger

For national park campers and visitors, this means they will need to use extra caution when building, maintaining and extinguishing any campfires. A High rating doesn’t necessarily mean that campfires are off-limits, but the park does strongly discourage lighting any outside of the early morning or late evening hours.

“Fire managers advise recreationists to use caution if choosing to build and maintain a campfire,” the park continued in the release.

Just as alarming as the new fire danger rating was the fact Grand Teton National Park has seen 99 abandoned campfires in the Teton Interagency Fire Area. Because of this, the park also reminded visitors that unattended or abandoned campfires can “quickly escalate into wildfires.”

In fact, the park can even hold the individuals behind the campfire responsible for the suppression costs if they find that the flames were responsible for the wildfire.

Of course, no upstanding parkgoer has the intention of fueling much larger flames when creating a campfire. But as Smokey taught us so many years ago, it takes only one mistake to nurse a wildfire.

Here are the park’s tips for safely building and extinguishing a campfire:

  • Never leave a campfire unattended – at least one member of your group should be watching the flames until you have completely extinguished the fire.
  • Always have a shovel and bucket of water at the ready when creating a campfire so that you can immediately extinguish the flames if necessary.
  • In order to fully extinguish a fire, dump the entire bucket on the site, stir the dirt, feel the ground with your hand and repeat the process until the ground is completely cold to the touch.