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1988 Yellowstone fires

By midcentury, ecologists recognized that fighting fires often meant, paradoxically, letting them burn. Fire helps prepare fertile ground for seed germination and clears away dead undergrowth. Fire, scientists noted, might blacken the ground, but it leaves roots unscathed.

Photos: Yellowstone rebounds, 25 years after ‘tragic mistake’

Twenty-five years ago, in a drought-parched and wildfire-swollen summer, 248 separate blazes charred 1.2 million acres in the greater Yellowstone area, while 50 fires inside Yellowstone National Park consumed more than a third of the park’s grounds. To date, it’s the worst wildfire in Yellowstone history.

Tuesday, Aug. 20, marks a quarter-century since Yellowstone's worst single day, when, according to the National Park Service, winds increased the fire’s range by 150,000 acres.

This photo gallery includes more information from the Park Service’s “History of Wildland Fire in Yellowstone” and features scenes from a summer when fires in and near the park roared through more than a million acres over several weeks, shut down tourism and prompted government officials to reconsider their fire mitigation efforts. — Tim Skillern