Yellowstone National Park Changes Wildfire Danger to Moderate: What We Know

by Jon D. B.
Yellowstone National Park- Big Horn Fire. (Photo credit: National Park Service, NPS Photo)

Despite one active wildland fire still burning in Yellowstone, the national park has lowered its parkwide fire danger level to MODERATE.

On Monday, October 3, Yellowstone National Park lowered their parkwide fire danger level to MODERATE. This danger level, distinguished by a blue color, is defined by the National Park Service (NPS) as:

  • Moderate (Blue)—Some wildfires may be expected. Expect moderate flame length and rate of spread. Control is usually not difficult and light to moderate mop up can be expected. Although controlled burning can be done without creating a hazard, routine caution should be taken.
Yellowstone National Park fire danger. (Photo credit: NPS photo)

Previously, it was set to HIGH, which NPS defines as:

  • High (Yellow)—Wildfires are likely. Fires in heavy, continuous fuel, such as mature grassland, weed fields, and forest litter, will be difficult to control under windy conditions. Control through direct attack may be difficult but possible, and mop up will be required. Outdoor burning should be restricted to early morning and late evening hours.

“Currently, there are no fire restrictions in place or planned in the park,” Yellowstone cites in their media release to Outsider. But “there is one active wildland fire in the park,” however.

That would be Yellowstone’s Big Horn Fire, which is currently burning in “very steep, rugged and rocky terrain in the remote northwest corner of the park,” the National Park Service cited last week.

Big Horn Fire was burning at around 5 acres on September 27, 2022, and continues at this approximate size. Smoke from the wildfire was first spotted on that same date, when individuals in Montana’s Tom Miner Basin reported seeing plumes rising from the park.

Yellowstone National Park has a Quiet Fire Season So Far

Big Horn Fire is located just north of Yellowstone National Park’s northwest boundary, and currently poses no threat to visitors. But Yellowstone is closing backcountry campsite WE4 for the rest of the season due to its proximity to the fire.

According to park officials, Big Horn was “likely ignited by lightning.” Smoke continues to billow up from the steep, rugged, rocky terrain in the park’s northwest corner, as recent images show:

The Big Horn Fire, a remote wildfire located in steep, rocky terrain in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. (Photo credit: NPS / Doug Kraus)

Park fire crews will continue to monitor the wildfire from Tom Miner Basin. Thankfully, though, it has been a quiet wildfire season for Yellowstone so far, and “the potential for [Big Horn Fire] to leave the park is very low,” officials cite.

Mainly, officials expect little growth due to the forecast, which calls for snow and rain over the next 10 days. This precipitation “will likely significantly slow [Big Horn’s] growth,” officials add. Additionally, Yellowstone believes “a weather pattern such as the one expected could also be a fire season ending event.”

An early end to a quiet fire season sounds like a big win in such wildfire prone times, to be sure. Regardless, the following regulations remain in place in Yellowstone National Park:

  • Campfires are only permitted within established fire rings in campgrounds and some backcountry campsites
  • Campfires must always be attended and cold to the touch before abandoning
    • Remember: Soak, stir, feel, repeat

For more on Yellowstone’s current fire situation, please see 5 Acre Wildfire Burning in Yellowstone National Park: PHOTOS next.