I’m not sure why this should surprise anybody:
Today, there is new life at Yellowstone National Park, as trees have taken root among the burnt logs that still litter the earth.
The 1988 wildfires were not the ecological disaster many feared at the time. Far from destroying the park, the fires brought new life, cleared out the forest canopies and allowed new plants to bloom.
Fire has been around for a loooonnnnggg time. Forever, pretty much.
If it had long-term, systemic, catastrophic consequences for the ecosystem, there wouldn’t be anything left, at all. Anywhere.
Which means we also wouldn’t be here today, to worry about it.
I’ve come around to the belief that nature is largely self-sustaining. Oh, we like to think we control it, and to some extent we can; we like to think we affect it, and to some extent we do.
But mostly, this is a conceit. Nature does what nature does, and mostly laughs at mankind for thinking we could even begin to affect it.
Anyway, I can’t believe it’s been 20 years already. The summer of ’88 was very hot, I remember it very well. My then-wife was pregnant with my oldest son, which is never good when it’s really friggin’ hot all summer. Chicago set some kind of record for most days in the 90s, like 45 days or something? It was just HOT, nearly every damn day.
Strangely enough, this was attributed to “the Sun” and “the weather” instead of doomsday scenarios involving global catastrophe.
The damage at Yellowstone was unbelievable:
In 1988, the fire dangers were not immediately clear. Park officials did not know it would be Yellowstone’s driest summer in recorded history, or that the lightning-sparked fires of May would burn into June. More storms in July would bring little rain and more lightning.
“Every single day you couldn’t believe that you’d wake up and there was more fire, new fires started,” said Joan Anzelmo, the park’s spokeswoman in 1988 and now superintendent of Colorado National Monument.
The escalating fire scene catapulted Yellowstone to the forefront of the nation’s attention in late July. That’s when one of the season’s most destructive fires forced the evacuation of about 4,000 people from Grant Village, a collection of lodges, restaurants and a visitor center.
Hundreds of reporters descended on the park. Over the next six weeks, the fires made national headlines as they continued into August and early September. More than 25,000 firefighters battled the fires, costing some $120 million.
On Aug. 20, known as Black Saturday, winds up to 80 mph fanned flames and the fires doubled in size to 750 square miles. On Sept. 7, the park evacuated the historic Old Faithful Inn, which was spared largely due to sprinklers installed on the roof the previous year.
Four days later, the first rain came. By Oct. 17, the fires were contained.
Overall, the fires burned 1,875 square miles in and around the park and destroyed 67 structures in Yellowstone, causing more than $3 million in property damage. Two firefighters were killed while working outside the park’s boundary.
Read the whole thing.