YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. – The biggest wildfire in Yellowstone National Park grew significantly amid warm, windy weather, forcing firefighters to take measures to protect nearby park facilities in case it shifts direction.
All the park’s main tourist facilities and roads were open Monday, but the flames were creeping toward a key road linking the West Entrance to the park’s interior. The fire is one of four burning in Yellowstone, and the forecast again called for higher temperatures and gusts that could fan the flames.
The largest blaze grew by nearly 10 square miles Sunday to about 35 square miles since lightning ignited it on Aug. 8. Firefighters were not actively suppressing the fire because winds have pushed it mostly into a remote area.
“As it’s pushing off to the north and east, there’s not a lot of values at risk as far as infrastructure goes,” said Mike Johnson, a spokesman with the National Park Service.
But firefighters are making contingency plans because the flames are burning between West Yellowstone, Montana, a border town of about 1,300 residents just outside the park’s western boundary, and Madison Junction, a recreational area within the park.
“We’re going to keep the fire to the north of the West Entrance Road, and we have plans in place that if the fire were to move to the west toward West Yellowstone,” Johnson said.
In addition, contingency plans are in place should the fire force the closure of West Entrance Road, Johnson said.
Madison Junction has a campground, some visitor facilities and staff housing and is where West Entrance Road intersects with the park’s Grand Loop Road, which links big tourist attractions such as Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake.
Firefighters have contained several smaller blazes elsewhere in the park and were close to extinguishing another fire about 4 miles north of West Yellowstone, Johnson said.
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