national Park Service officials never prevented fire-fighters from doing their job to control blazes involving more than 1.1 million acres in Yellowstone National Park, according to park Superintendent Robert Barbee.
Barbee, responding to statements by two fire bosses that they were prevented from putting the fires out, said no fire commander ever complained that he was restricted.The statements had been attributed to Larry Caplinger and Curt Bates, who said they could have stopped two major fires when they were small. Caplinger said he was prevented from using bulldozers and several firefighting techniques.
But Barbee said he was not approached with such complaints and added he did not know they existed until he read about them in a newspaper.
"Caplinger never once expressed to me that he was being constrained," he told the Denver Post. "He had the responsibility to come to me."
Caplinger said he wanted to put a 15-mile bulldozer line around the North Fork fire, but was not allowed to do so. He added he could have held the fire, which involved more than 500,000 acres, to 1,500 acres.
Bates, the first commander on the Clover-Mist fire, said he could have stopped that blaze if sufficient manpower and money would have been provided, but park officials decided instead to monitor the blaze.
But Barbee said only one fire commander, Dave Poncin, mentioned using bulldozers.
Barbee said Poncin asked to use bulldozers to defend Grant Village from flames and permission was granted, but Poncin decided against using the machines.
Bulldozers were used to keep the North Fork fire out of West Yellowstone, Mont.
Poncin said fire commanders should have taken their questions on Barbee's decisions to the superintendent.
"It's easy to say the park screwed up, but we, as professional fire people, share responsibility for not speaking up," he said.