In a strike of irony, a historic Yellowstone National Park fire lookout burned to the ground on Tuesday after being hit by lightning.
The Mount Holmes Fire Lookout caught on fire during a severe thunderstorm in the area, according to a park press release. The structure fire also damaged a park radio repeater.
The fire lookout is located southwest of Mammoth Hot Springs and north of Madison Junction in the northern area of the park.
An employee at the Mount Washburn Fire Lookout spotted and reported the Mount Holmes structure fire. On Wednesday morning three park employees, including the park fire chief, were to fly by helicopter to the 10,000-foot lookout to assess the damage. The flight, however, was postponed as the helicopter was diverted to a higher priority incident outside the park. While en route, the helicopter manager snapped a photo of the burned lookout, which was then only a few charred supports rising from the base.
Park staff attempted to fly to the lookout again on Wednesday afternoon but were grounded due to strong winds. Additional attempts to reach the mountain will be made in the next few days.
Because of the fire the Mount Holmes Trail, west of the junction with the Trilobite Lake Trail, and the summit of Mount Holmes are closed. They will remain closed until the unsafe conditions are assessed, mitigated, and no longer pose a threat to public safety.
Built in 1931 and renovated in 1998, the Mount Holmes Fire Lookout was staffed until 2007. The building was eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, both for its significance in early park resource protection efforts, and as an example of the rustic architectural style that typified early park buildings.
"We are disappointed that this historic structure, as a window into the past, is gone,” said Yellowstone National Park deputy superintendent Pat Kenney.
The Mount Washburn Fire Lookout is staffed seven days a week, mid-June through mid-September. If warranted, three additional fire lookouts can be staffed in the park.