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Lone Star Fire

Unit Information

Yellowstone National Park
National Park Service

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Distant Smoke Brings Back Memories

Lone Star Fire Wildfire
News – 8/26/2020

Though the Lone Star Fire continues its spread to the northeast away from Old Faithful, the infrastructure in the area is part of a structure protection plan being developed by the Wyoming Team 2 incident management team. The team took command of the fire on Sunday, August 22 and began assessing the landscape around buildings, cell towers, a water treatment plant, picnic areas, and other nearby park facilities. Included in that inventory is the park’s legendary Old Faithful Inn.

The Old Faithful Inn is a national historic landmark, recognized by people from around the world. Located adjacent to the Old Faithful geyser, the popular facility is considered one of the park’s most valuable man-made resources. On Tuesday, fire crews worked with park concessionaires to test the sprinkler system on the towering, wooden lodge.

The iconic building has undergone several restoration projects over the years. In 1947, an internal sprinkler system was installed inside the historic building in response to three deadly fires the previous year in other grand hotels of the National Park Service.  

Forty years later, in 1987, the inn’s original sprinkler system was improved. The system included a component that would send a deluge of water onto the roof, soaking the inn if a fire were to threaten the structure.

In September 1988, that new system was put to the test when the North Fork Fire approached the Old Faithful area. Heavy winds blew large embers onto the roof of the lodgepole pine building. Yellowstone Superintendent Bob Barbee expressed his clear direction by referring to the Old Faithful Inn as the park’s Sistine Chapel and adding, “under any circumstances, we don’t lose the Old Faithful Inn.” In addition to turning on the sprinkler system, firefighters draped hoses over the exterior of the building while helicopters flew overhead to knock down approaching flames. Pictures of the fire fight made national news, and the nation held its breath as the dire situation played out.

Hours later, news of the successful outcome quickly spread: several nearby cabins were lost, but the Old Faithful Inn remained intact with only minor damage.

The Lone Star Fire, now at 820 acres on August 26, is neither the size nor threat of the North Fork Fire, but protection of the historic structure will always be a consideration whenever a fire burns nearby. When the sprinklers were again turned on this past Tuesday as a precautionary test, it’s unknown how many visitors flashed back to that momentous day back in 1988, though many cameras snapped as the water flowed off the roof on Tuesday. 

National Park Service Supervisory Park Ranger Rebecca Roland walked through the crowd seated by the geyser during Tuesday's event, explaining the uniqueness and purpose of the test taking place behind them. “There is always interest from the public to learn more about the Old Faithful Inn,” Roland said, “whatever part of its history we share.”

Several photos of the sprinkler test on Tuesday, August 25 can be found on the Photographs tab of this Inciweb page.
Lori Iverson 
Lone Star Fire Information