Gazing out at night from the Clay Butte Lookout, the Clover-Mist Fire in Yellowstone National Park flickered like hundreds of twinkling campfires in the distance. But in reality, it was glimmering from flares of a wildfire that had burned nearly 400,000 acres as part of the historic 1988 complex of fires that blackened the park and adjacent national forests.
At the time, the fires that drew the nation's attention to the world's first national park were considered simply part of the fire regime that historically has existed in Yellowstone. But in the fires' aftermath, "climate change" entered the country's lexicon. Since then, too, increasingly intense wildfires have forced the National Park Service in the West to both evolve and refine its approach to battling flames that are arriving with greater and greater ferocity.