Scattered embers may still be glowing beneath the blanket of snow that covers Yellowstone, but the last of the eight major fires that raged this summer is out.
Field studies conducted during the past several weeks to determine what measures should be taken to rehabilitate the 2.2 million acre national park are now in the paperwork stage with results expected in the next two weeks, said park spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo."What we are saying is that the fires are all out," she said. "All of the fires are now controlled and pose absolutely no threat."
While some embers could still be smoldering, the eight-to-25-inch blanket of snow that now covers the park is a frosty guarantee the embers will not grow into a fire, Anzelmo said.
The last fire to be controlled was the combined North Fork/Wolf Lake fire, which was declared under control Nov. 4. Snow that fell in the park, mostly during the past 10 days, assured firefighting officials the last of Yellowstone's eight massive fires is finally out.
The North Fork fire was started by a burning cigarette July 22 in the Targhee National Forest west of Yellowstone and was one of two human-caused fires that burned into the park. It was also the fire that burned the oldest-known stand of pine trees in the park and threatened the historic lodge at Old Faithful.
Anzelmo said a fire mapping process is still in progress, but the most recent figures indicate 995,000 acres "burned in one way or another."
The area covered by the fires was originally set at 1.5 million acres.
Of the acreage burned, according to the most recent count, 573,000 acres of pine forest were completely blackened. Another 367,000 acres burned on the ground without killing the trees, and 55,000 acres of meadow grassland burned but will be green again by June, Anzelmo said.
Those figures will again be revised when additional data is compiled in a week or so, she said.
A team of independent scientists led by Norman Christensen, a biologist from Duke University, met last weekend to compare findings of field studies conducted in the weeks before snow covered the floor of the park. Anzelmo said their report will make a recommendation whether bulldozer lines and burned areas should be replanted, something park biologists have recommended against.
In about two weeks the group is expected to deliver its report to the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee, a combined group of National Forest and National Park officials, Anzelmo said.
The most recent count of animal losses because of the fires indicates that of the 254 large animals found dead there were 243 elk, four deer, two moose and five bison. All but 41 of those animals were found dead in the area of the North Fork fire.
The fires also took a toll on tourism during late summer when the visitor count typically is at its peak. But during October when the fires started to calm down, the number of visitors skyrocketed and set a park record for that month.
Anzelmo said fair weather and curiosity about the fires brought the additional visitors late in the season.
All but one of the roads into Yellowstone are now closed for the winter. Lodging and recreation promoters are now on the circuit promoting the park's snowmobile and cross-country skiing season. "They're out getting the message out that Yellowstone is alive and well," Anzelmo said.
Curiosity about the fires is expected to draw more wintertime visitors to the park, she said.