Fires burning in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Bearpaw Bay Fire and Mount MoranVisitors at the historic Jackson Lake Lodge usually spend time on the back patio gazing at elk or moose wandering in the wide expansive fields surrounding the lake. The past couple of days, however, the spectacle of fire has overtaken the wildlife as the main attraction. A smoke plume from the Bearpaw Bay Fire, burning across the lodge near Jackson Lake, casts an almost mystical haze over Mount Moran and the surrounding peaks. At night the flames light the far shore in an orange glow. 

 The Bearpaw Bay Fire—likely started from a lightning strike—was reported on September 2 and had grown to over 130 acres by Friday afternoon. Park officials closed backcountry campsites at Bearpaw Bay, Trapper Lake, and the east shore of Leigh Lake as a result. At this time, the park is not actively suppressing the fire, but instead letting it burn to benefit the resource.

 In Yellowstone National Park, the Arnica Fire surged to life on late Friday afternoon when it grew to 1,200 acres in size and prompted a temporary closure of the Grand Loop Road from West Thumb to Bridge Bay. Although the road reopened on Friday evening, park officials caution that further road closures may be necessary over the weekend as the active burn area increases. Fire teams continue to monitor the fire from the air, ground and the Mt Washburn Fire Lookout and are actively managing it to protect people and property, and the area’s natural resources. The fire can be viewed online from the Mt. Washburn Fire Lookout Webcam.

Visitors can access updated road information for Yellowstone National Park by calling 307-344-2117 or by visiting the NPS website.

For a photo slideshow of the fires see below.

Déjà vu—Fire In Yellowstone

 Le Hardy Fire from Fishing Bridge JunctionI arrived back in Yellowstone, eager to leave the memory of racing flames and charred hillsides behind in California, only to be greeted with another fire! 

A tree falling on a power line ignited what has been named the Le Hardy fire near Fishing Bridge in the Lake Yellowstone area of the park. Although some roads were briefly closed, and some backcountry areas remain inaccessible, this fire is not expected to be of the same magnitude of the 1988 event. A co-worker took this photo of the smoke plume from Fishing Bridge Junction.

One challenge fire fighters didn't experience in California--large predators. A firefighter in Yellowstone surprised a grizzly bear and received minor injuries from the frightened animal, who was trying to flee the flames. 

Telegraph Fire, Postscript

 Telegraph Fire SurvivorsFor my last night in Midpines my dear friends and neighbors, Tre and Susan, hosted a party for a group of shell-shocked Midpines residents who survived the fire. 

Our group of friends sat on the back deck of their home, which two days ago might have been lost, and consumed copious amounts of food and alcohol. Doug Chappell brought some fine selections of wine and port from his Mariposa vineyard (which was almost burnt as well). I contributed some sake, Susan cooked a delicious shrimp dinner, and Jen baked a tasty layered fruit cake. Jen and Louis, pictured, were featured on CNN as they evacuated!

We shared evacuation stories, laughed over what silly items we hurriedly collected before fleeing (mine was a dinosaur clay figure I had made in second grade), and raised our glasses in a toast to Fatty and Little G goldfish, casualties of the fire.

I arrived back in Yellowstone this evening, elated but exhausted. Andy, my pronghorn friend, greeted me in my front-yard.

Tre & Beth Celebrate


X Marks the SpotAt 6:30 pm this evening, we received word that we could return home. We loaded up the dogs, cats, goldfish, said a fond farewell to Charlie and Fen, and headed to Midpines. We arrived right in time for sunset, and I'll say one positive for the fire--it sure made for a colorful evening show. 

When we arrived at our house, the dogs ran blissfully through the yard, the cats were relieved to be freed from the confines of the laundry room, and the fish happily swam in their tank, a welcome upgrade from a plastic bin. I surveyed the property, and felt very lucky--the only sign of the fire was the dead plants and the light layer of ash.

Thank you to all my friends and family who kept sending us well wishes during our evacuation. You all helped make this ordeal a little less horrible. And my thanks to the wonderful firefighters for saving our home.

I'll be home with Shad and the Sunshine Hill Pack for the next two days, and then I'll return to Yellowstone--where I am told a small fire has been burning for a couple of days near Fishing Bridge!

Shad & The Dogs Arrive Home

 Doggie Excitement Cirrus on Front Deck


Patience is a Virtue

Shad drove to Midpines this morning to assess the situation. Crews are still securing the area around our home, and we probably won't be able to return until this evening. But since we are absolutely out of danger, one more day of lap swimming and Jamba Juice won't be hard to take! This whole experience has been a wild, scary ride and I am just thankful we all escaped relatively unscathed (except for poor Fatty and Little G). Some of our friends were not so fortunate as they had the terrible experience of seeing their homes reduced to ash and rubble. I will certainly never forget the terror and awe I felt at watching a smoke cloud explode to 40,000 feet in altitude and a wall of flames 100 feet high rushing toward our home.

Great News!

Today the fire has been 40% contained thanks to the dedication and hard work of the firefighters. Margaritas are flowing out of the blender and Fen is preparing a shrimp pasta with mushrooms for our celebration dinner. The sheriff has cleared some areas to allow homeowners to return--our home is about 500 feet from the safe zone but we think we'll be able to return in the morning. Charlie Medley was on the verge of evicting us for eating all of his cookies and raiding his liquor cabinet, so this is timely news. However, our pets will miss Charlie--Huxley liked crawling on his shoulders.

I extended my stay in California and will return to Yellowstone on Sunday.

Even a cynical person like me has to be cheered by the heartwarming story of animal rescue that the Fresno Bee featured on Getting Animals Out Alive from the Telegraph Fire. Jon Currie, a Mariposa resident, saved his neighbors five horses and a donkey, Digger, from the flames at the expense of his own home. As a big animal lover, Jon is a true hero in my book!

The Towering Inferno

We just received a call from a friend who informed us that the fire has flared up again on Rumley Mine Road--this road begins less than a half a mile from us. As you can imagine, the anxiety and frustration we're experiencing at being so helpless is unbelievable. We had hoped to be able to return home today, but this new development makes it seem unlikely, and has us fearing once again for the safety of our home.
On the plus side, I am overdosing on Jamba Juices and swimming multiple laps in a sunlit pool--two of my favorite things that I can't get in Yellowstone.

If you would like to check out the perimeter of our fire on google earth, visit the GeoMac site and select "View Fire Perimeter" for CA Telegraph Fire. YouTube also has a neat time lapse photo sequence of the satellite imagery of the fire. The smoke cloud, which we observed from our property, rose to over 40,000 feet into the atmosphere!

Telegraph Fire, Day 4

This morning I drove to Mariposa/Midpines to view the situation. CHP patrols block every western road on Highway 140 from Mariposa to Midpines, and I stopped to speak with the officer stationed at Colorado. From the highway, everything appears normal, except for the dense haze of smoke. 

While I was stopped, my friends Hugh Carter and Steve Speltz pulled up to check on Hugh's home-it was great to see them. The rumor is Davis Road (our road) remains unaffected, although the main fire still burns less than 1/4 mile away (see map below). With the hot temperatures and afternoon winds, we certainly are not out of the woods yet as the fire is still about only 10% contained and we just learned it jumped to the eastern side of Highway 140, which means we are getting surrounded by the active burn area.

I also drove down to Briceburg, where the fire's work is visible from the road. Burma Grade Road, where I walked my dogs just two days ago, has been blackened and smoke still eerily rises in many places. As I stood and surveyed the desolate landscape, ash fell on me. The fire has increased to 26,000 acres--from just 1,000 when it began on Friday. Highway 140 to Yosemite just closed because of the fire spreading.

We're still staying at Camp Medley, and enjoying our luxury refugee accommodations. Shad has been assisting Charlie Medley with some home remodeling projects, while Charlie's girlfriend Fen has been cooking us gourmet meals. The dogs and I have been enjoying the pool--they accompany me as I do laps. If we are going to be homeless, we're going to do it in style!

Last night we lost another Sunshine Hill Pack member. Fatty the goldfish will be buried in a place of honor near our frog pond. Shad has sworn to avenge his death on the stupid target shooter who started this fire. Charlie and Shad completed "Operation Goldfish Rescue" last night and Big G and Jack appear to be doing well this morning.

Tonight Mariposa County is holding a community meeting on the fire and we should know more about our situation. My thanks to everyone for your emails and phone calls--who needs a home when we have such great family and friends.

Midpines Telegraph Fire Update: We’ve Evacuated!

The fire quickly worsened this afternoon about 3:00 pm. Shad and I spent the early afternoon raking and cutting down branches. About 3:00 pm, we received notice that evacuation looked likely and be prepared to leave. We watched the flames fan into the sky only a couple of miles away. Shock, disbelief, awe all raced through me—it was like seeing a dragon approach.

We are safely camped out at the home of friend Jane Medley (the wife of my late boss and friend, Steve Medley) about twenty miles from the fire. The dogs are running around the backyard and swimming in her pool, the cats are locked in the bathroom, and the fish are swimming in a five-gallon bucket.

I’m still in shock, not quite able to process that I might lose my home, but I’m playing in the pool with the dogs trying to create some semblance of normalcy. Paul and Annette, our distant neighbors and close friends, are also staying at what we’ve dubbed Camp Medley.

Shad drove back to Mariposa to remain close to home. He is calling with regular updates.

Here’s a photo log of this afternoon.

Fire at 2:30 pm from our Midpines Home Fire at 3:30 pm Fire at 4:15 pm Sky Above Our Home  

Sky Above Our Home, Part 2      

Where There’s Smoke…California Wildfire Report from My Deck

My relaxing sojourn home, in which I envisioned I’d be sipping margaritas from my deck and working on my tan, has taken an interesting and dramatic turn. Yesterday, a wildfire ignited less than ten miles away, and my home has now been transformed into a fire tower. We have an excellent (and disturbing view) of the Telegraph Fire from the back deck as my house stands on the top of Sunshine Hill, which overlooks the Merced River Canyon.

Last night we arrived home at 2:30 am from our field trip to Fresno to see the new Batman movie (Heath Ledger’s creepy and mesmerizing performance was outstanding) to find a Mariposa county search and rescue vehicle in our driveway. The nice person who greeted us briefed us on our pre-evacuation status, reviewed how an evacuation would proceed, and noted we had 3 dogs, 2 cats and 4 fish.

After he left, Shad dusted the ash off his truck and we both felt a bit dazed at the prospect of an inferno engulfing our beloved home. Even at 3:00 am, we walked through the house, took an inventory of items for packing, and formulated a fish evacuation plan (5 gallon bucket with some rocks).

I have to admit to the absolute surreal nature of watching a DC10 fly directly over your house, at a low enough altitude to bend the tops of trees in its wake. I watched the plane this morning drop a few loads of flame retardant on the terrain surrounding the fire; the red substance billowing into the air as if the landscape had just coughed up a billion red flowers.



This afternoon, a fire crew from Kern County, who had traveled down for support, toured our property and gave us some very helpful tips for fire prevention. I’ll be raking pine needles in the 100+ degree heat this afternoon, while Shad will trim some trees. Overall, they pronounced our property in pretty good shape as far as fire prevention measures.

I took photographs of our home and contents for insurance purposes—a very disconcerting experience—but we know that we’ll be able to save what’s really important: the Sunshine Hill Pack of dogs, cats, and fish.

Keep your fingers crossed for us!