Eyes in the Sky II > GIT Web Course > Module 2 > Week 8 > Using GIS to Manage Forest Fires > Using MyWorld to Manage Forest Fires

Week 8: Monitoring Fires

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Using My World to Manage Forest Fires

Mirror Plateau in flames, Summer 1988.
Source: NPS Photo archives.

Key Investigation Questions:


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Download Geographic Data About Yellowstone Fires

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Launch My World and Open the YNP.m3vz Project File

My World Icon
1 YNP park Opens

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Where in the World is Yellowstone National Park?

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Locate Yellowstone in the Region

Turn on the National Forest, Yellowstone National Park, Teton Natl Park, and Natl Wildlife Refuge layers.
5 NW states added other layers


Yellowstone Park and Federal Lands

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Focus on Finding Facilities in Yellowstone National Park

Planning a trip to see Yellowstone and its magnificent features? You would probably want to know more about the facilities in and around the park, such as where might you find a hotel outside of Yellowstone National Park or where to find a campground that is closest to the attractions that you have traveled to see. Use GIS techniques to find the towns close to the northern, western, and eastern boundaries of Yellowstone National Park.

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Locate towns and campgrounds

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Search for a feature you might want to visit

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Buffer the Old Faithful Visitor Center to find facilities that are located within a 20 mile radius of it

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Find campgrounds that resulted from the spatial query

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The Historic 1988 Fires in Yellowstone National Park

The fires of 1988 were a result of a "perfect storm" of conditions. The summers of 1982-1987 were exceptionally wet, both suppressing fire and creating a build up of fuels. The summer of 1988 had been exceptionally warm and dry across the west. Normally, during summer months in this region the lands are in lush bloom, but this year the grass and other fuels were tinder dry. The forests of Yellowstone had not seen a fire of this magnitude in as many as 200 years, resulting in trees that were tightly clustered and ripe for the spread of a fire. Hot dry conditions combined with many dry lighting storms triggered the fires of '88. Wind accelerated it. By September 1988, fifty fires had engulfed the park.

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Get a sense of how the fires progressed

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Create and execute a Query to find out the number of acres burned by the major fires

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Discover Which Yellowstone Facilities were Threatened by the Fires

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Select the North Fork fire

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Buffer the fire to select facilities that were within two miles of the fire

  1. Click the Analyze tab to open the Analyze window.
  2. In the Analyze window, choose the Make Buffer Around... buffer icon option. Set the Buffer Distance to 2 Miles Set the Buffer to Outside, with interior. Click the "Dissolve All Buffers" radio button. Accept the Default result name and click OK.
    29 Analyze Window
  3. A buffer will be drawn on the map. Edit the appearance of the buffer to a Magenta color that is 50% transparent.
    30 edit appearance of buffer

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Find out how many facilities were threatened by the fire

  1. Complete a containment query to find the Yellowstone facilities within this boundary.
  2. Single click on the Yellowstone Facilities label in the Layer List and select the Table of Layer button. In the Attributes of Yellowstone Facilities table that opens, click on any field and sort the data ascending.
  3. 59 Yellowstone Facilities were threatened by the North Fork Fire.
    32 threatened by fire

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Repeat this process on the Clover-Mist and Hellroaring Fires

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Consider Fire Management Decisions in National Parks

Fire management in the National Parks allows for the natural progression of fires. As far back as 1972, fire management in Yellowstone National Park encouraged as many as possible of the lightening-caused fires to progress naturally while protecting human life, properties, and historic structures. In contrast, all human-caused fires are to be suppressed. Prescribed burning is to be utilized to prevent the spread of fires.

From the time the fire management plan in Yellowstone National Park went into effect in 1972, until the fires of '88 erupted, 34,175 acres had burned in Yellowstone due to natural causes. The summer of 1988 broke all the rules of fire, and forever changed fire management strategies. Now, while protecting human life is first priority, fires are allowed to play their ecological role in the park.

Consider the following thought questions: top of page

Fire: just part of nature?

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Investigate the relationship between fire starts and roads.

Generally, how far are the human caused fires away from the highways in Yellowstone National Park?

Thought Question: In your opinion, what is the best prevention tool needed to manage and control fires in National Parks?

Should fires be allowed to burn in National Forest and National Parks?

Mosaic pattern of burn in Madison Canyon. Source: NPS

While horrific to view, fire is as natural a part of the western ecosystem as are bears and elk. In fact, fire often improves habitats for some animals, increasing grazing for elk and providing dead trees that can be used for nesting cavities for birds. A natural fire such as the one in Yellowstone National Park burns in a pattern known as a mosaic. This mosaic pattern is healthy for a forest because it creates forested areas that are mixed in both age and plant type. This mixed structure can be seen developing in the satellite images and aerial photographs from NASA.




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Explore More if your have Time

The Fires in the Northwest US 2001-2008



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Resources

  • Read more about this NASA partnership at NASA Satellites Eye Forest Fires
  • Read more about NASA's role in the management of the 1988 fires, summarized from Yellowstone Science web pages and The Fires of '88 by Ross W. Simpson.
  • View an animation of the fire progression from NASA.
  • To learn more read the articles about the Arnica fire from September 24th and October 12th, 2009 listed below:
  • NASA Earth Observatory Story: Arnica Fire
  • NASA Earth Observatory Story: Arnica Fire Oct
  • Wildland Fire in Yellowstone on the web.
  • View pictures of the major facilities at Yellowstone National Park during the fire. Included are the features: Grant Village Campground, Madison Junction, Old Faithful Lodge and the East and North Entrances.Pictures of 1988 fires in PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 5.1MB Apr2 10)

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