Week 8: Monitoring Fires

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Using ArcGIS to Manage Forest Fires

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

Key Investigation Questions:

  • Where were the Yellowstone Fires of 1988?
  • How was GIS used to assist in the management of these fires ?
  • What is the primary cause of forest fire in Yellowstone National Park?

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Download Geographic Data About Yellowstone Fires

  • Right-click the link below to download the zipped file.

    YellowstoneFireDataAM (Zip Archive PRIVATE FILE 35.3MB Apr3 10)
  • Unzip the file. A folder called YellowstoneFireDataAM will be created.
  • Move the YellowstoneFireDataAM folder to inside the Data folder of Week8.
    (Path: c:/Eyesinthesky2/Week8/YellowstoneFireDataAM)

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Launch ARCGIS ArcMap and Open the YSFAM.mxd Project File

Shortcut1
  • Launch ARCGIS ArcMap by double-clicking its icon on your desktop or by clicking its icon on the Launch Bar.
  • Choose File > Open, navigate to c:/Eyesinthesky2/Week8/YellowstoneFireDataAM, select the file YSFAM.mxd, and click Open.
  • When the project opens, the base map displays latitude and longitude lines, outlines of countries of the world and the United States. The map highlights states in the northwestern region of the U.S.

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Where in the World is Yellowstone National Park?

  1. Right click the NW States layer in the Table of Contents.
    85 Zoom to Layer
  2. Click on Zoom to Layer in the context menu to zoom into the northwestern region of the United States.
    86 Zoom to Layer NW States

  • Can you identify the 11 states in this layer? Use the Label 87 Label Tool tool to label the names of the states.
  • Return to the map. Hover over the state to see the name of the state. You can also click on a state and the state will be labeled. In this example, Idaho has a graphic label and Montana is being hovered over.
    92 Label with Hover
  • Close the Label Tool Option box when you have completed exploring the NW States layer. Click once on any state labels and click on the Delete key on your keyboard to remove them from your map
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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.
    97 National Layers On


    Yellowstone Park and Federal Lands

    Movie Icon

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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

    1. Turn on the Yellowstone Towns layer. Use the Zoom Out Zoom Out tool to view all of the National Forest layer.
      100 Yellowstone Towns ON
    2. Choose the Identify Identify tool and click on each town to learn their names. Cooke City is identified in this example.
      101 Identify Cooke City

  • Prefer a campground in the park? Then turn on the Yellowstone Facilities layer and find several campgrounds. Open the Attribute table, sort the Features in ascending order, and search for campgrounds.
  • To select all the campgrounds, click the gray box to the left of the first campground record in the Attribute Table. Hold your left click button down and drag your mouse down to the final campground record in the Attribute Table. Notice that the campgrounds are now colored blue on the map.
    104 Campgrounds Selected in Table
  • How many campgrounds did you select?
  • Close the Attributes of Yellowstone Facilities table. Click on the Clear Selected Features Clear Selected button to clear the selected facilities.

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    Search for a feature you might want to visit

    1. Click on the Zoom In Zoom In tool to zoom in to Yellowstone National Park.
    2. Click the Selection > Select by Attribute menu option. In the Select by Attributes window that opens, double click on NAME then once on the equals sign. Click on Get Unique Values button and then double click on the words Old Faithful Visitor Center under the Values heading. (NAME = 'Old Faithful Visitor Center' )
      105 Old Faithful Selection
    3. Click the OK button. You will see the results of your query highlighted in blue on the map.
      Old Faithful Selected on Map

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    Buffer the Old Faithful Visitor Center to find facilities that are located within a 15 mile radius of it

    1. Click the Selection > Select by Location menu option to open the Select by Location window.
      107 Select by Location Window
    2. In the Select by Location window, set the Buffer Distance to 15 and the Buffer Units to Miles. Turn on the Apply a buffer to the features in Yellowstone Facilities option. Be sure to have Yellowstone Facilites as the selected layer at the top of the Select by Location window.
      108 Select by Location with Choices

  • Click OK. The map shows towns within 15 miles of Old Faithful Visitor Center, highlighted in blue.
    109 15 Mile Facilities of Old Faithful
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    Find campgrounds that resulted from the spatial query

    1. Right-click on the Yellowstone Facilities layer in the Table of Contents and select Open Attribute Table.
      110 Open Attribute Table Yellowstone Facilities
    2. In the Attributes of Yellowstone Facilities table that opens, scroll across to the FEATURE field heading. The selected records are highlighted in blue. Scroll down to check if there are any Campground selections.
      111 Campground Selected
  • Look in the FEATURE field to see if any campgrounds were selected.
  • What campground is within 15 miles of Old Faithful Visitor Center
  • When you are done, click the Clear Selected Features Clear Selected button and close the Attribute Table. Movie Icon


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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

    1. Right-click on the Historic Yellowstone Fire layer in the Table of Contents and select Open Attribute Table.
      113 Right Click Historic Yellowstone Fires
    2. Scroll across the Attributetable to find the DATE field in the last column.
      114 Scroll Across Table to Date
    3. Right-click on the DATE field heading and select Sort Ascending to find the first fire of 1988. Then switch to Sort Descending to find the last fire of 1988.
      115 Sort Ascending

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    Create and execute a Query before finding the statistics on the number of acres burned by the major fires

    1. Click the Selection > Select by Attribute menu option to open the Select by Attribute window.
      116 Select by Attributes Fires
    2. A new window opens. Move it to where you can see both the Select by Attributes window and the map.
      117 Select by Attributes Window Open
    3. In the Select by Attributes window, double click on FIRENAME, then click once on the equals sign. Click on Get Unique Values and then double click on the words North Fork. (FIRENAME = 'North Fork'). Click Apply and OK.
      119 North Fork Query OK
    4. To find out how many acres were burned by the North Fork Fire, right click the Historic Yellowstone Fires layer and click on Open Attribute Table. Right click on the ACRES field header and click on Statistics in the context menu.
      121 Statistics on Attribute Table
    5. A new window opens. Look at the Sum field for the total acres burned in the North Fork fire. 827 records are selected on the map as is displayed in the
      Count: on the Statistics window.122 Statistics North Forks

  • Close the Statistics Results window.
  • Click the Clear Selected Features Clear Selected button between investigations.
  • Repeat these steps to explore the acres burned in other Historic Yellowstone Fires
  • What were the total numbers of acres burned for these fires?
  • Estimate what percentage of Yellowstone National Park burned in 1988.
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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

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    Find out how many facilities were threatened by the fire

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    Repeat this process on the Clover-Mist and Hellroaring Fires

    Movie Icon

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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?

    1. Create and execute a query to find all the fires started by smokers.
      134 YCause eq Smoker
    2. Zoom into a selected point. Measure from the road to the point.
      135 Measure to Road

    3. 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


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    Movies on this Page

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    How to download movies

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    Flash Video Versions

    Download these versions to play on your computer. You'll need an appropriate movie player to view the file, such as Flash Player, Real Player (Mac / Win), or Adobe Media Player.

    Movie Icon Locating Yellowstone National Park in ArcGIS

    Movie Icon Finding Facilities in Yellowstone National Park in ArcGIS

    Movie Icon Querying Fire Statistics in ArcGIS

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    iPod Versions

    Download these version to play on your iPod or iPhone.

    Movie Icon Locating Yellowstone National Park in ArcGIS

    Movie Icon Finding Facilities in Yellowstone National Park in ArcGIS

    Movie Icon Querying Fire Statistics in ArcGIS


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