Question Sheet: Watching for Wildfires in Yellowstone


Before reading:

  1. What is the first image that comes to mind when you think of Yellowstone National Park?
  2. What are some causes of forest fires? What other things, besides trees, are harmed when wildfires break out?
  3. Why might the park service station a ranger to look out from a mountaintop? What are some of the things that such a firewatcher might see?

During reading:

  1. What does George Henley do for a living?
  2. What is the most significant activity that rangers like George do?
  3. Can you name three reasons that Yellowstone National Park is a popular tourist spot?
  4. Why were there so many fires in Yellowstone in the summer of 1988? What are some of the major causes of forest fires?
  5. When scientist talk about succession, what are they referring to? How do big fires contribute to succession?
  6. What reasons do rangers give for letting some fires burn in Yellowstone?

After reading:

  1. Roy Renkin, the vegetation management specialist, has determined through research that old trees burn faster than young ones. Can you think of any reasons why this is true?
  2. How can sticks help measure humidity? Would a lighter or heavier stick indicate a higher level of humidity?
  3. Why does George Henley have to keep records of the wind and temperature in the park? What conditions would cause the strongest wildfires?


  1. People disagree on how to handle wildfires. Write a short commentary in which you state what the opposing views are. Then, give your opinion on what should be done when the next fire starts in Yellowstone and what evidence supports your view.
  2. The rangers in Yellowstone National Park have contacted you to write an advertisement to promote the park and bring more tourists to visit. Come up with three slogans that will persuade tourists to visit and let people know what can be seen at Yellowstone.
  3. George Henley keeps a journal in which he writes about his experiences as a ranger. Imagine that you are a ranger. Compose a typical journal entry for one day’s work in Yellowstone. Describe the sights and sounds.


In 1988, 34,000 acres of Yellowstone’s forests where burnt by fires. The entire park is 2,221,773 acres. What percentage of the park was destroyed?