Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the United States, was established on March 1, 1872.

32 years ago, on September 8, 1988, severe wildfires forced the park to close to the public for the first time in it's then-116 year history.

In the summer of '88, Yellowstone was greatly overdue for the beneficial, economic burns that parks had begun to adopt in the country. This, combined with particularly dry weather and temperamental weather, sparked (literally) a summer of fires that would last from mid-June until mid-November.

More than 72,000 wildfires were reported in the western United States that summer, with 300 of the fires rated as "major" - an exponential number by anyone's terms.

As many of us know, one of the greatest concentrated and most drastic fires was the burning of Yellowstone National Park and it's entire Yellowstone Ecosystem region. A combination of 250 separate fires attributed to the disaster, although seven fires are listed as responsible for the greatest amount of destruction.  At the peak of the effort, more than 9,000 firefighters were assigned to the park and even that was not quite efficient - eventually 4,000 assorted military personnel were also brought in to assist the firefighting efforts of the region.

Not a single firefighter died - however, two civilian deaths were cited as being fire-related by the end of the burning. An astonishingly minuscule number, in perspective. The efforts of those fighting the blazes must have been truly incredible.

Watch below for an original newscast on the fires in '88:

5 months of burning, over 10,000 firefighting personnel and 120 aircraft, an effort of $260 million (in 2020 dollars) - it's no wonder the park finally closed itself to the public. It broke a 166 year streak of constant tourism and exploration, and saved countless lives instead. Since, the only particularly notable closure by Yellowstone National Park has been this spring, thanks to the appearance and spread of coronavirus.

We're on the anniversary of 32 years since the park's first closure to the public, and while disappointing to have closed the park again a few months ago, it can be said that all closures have been in effort to save citizen's lives.

Below, you can view photos of the firefighting effort in 1988 that led to Yellowstone's first public closure in history.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

Historic Photos of 1988 Yellowstone Fire

More From Wake Up Wyoming