Lightning Strike Burns Down Historic Lookout Tower in Yellowstone National Park

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 16, the historic Mount Holmes Fire Lookout in Yellowstone National Park burned to the ground, having been struck by lightning from a severe thunderstorm in the area.

Built in 1931, and renovated in 1998, the Mount Holmes Fire Lookout maintained its historic-era role as one of Yellowstone National Park’s staffed lookout stations 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 outstanding example of the rustic architectural style that typified early park architecture.

The fire lookout is located southwest of Mammoth Hot Springs and north of Madison Junction.

On the morning of July 17, three employees, including the park fire chief attempted to fly to the 10,000 ft lookout via helicopter to assess the damage. However, the flight was postponed. According to a press release by Yellowstone officials, 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. Additional attempts to reach the summit of the mountain via helicopter will be made in the next few days.

The remains of the Mount Holmes Lookout Tower via NPS
The remains of the Mount Holmes Lookout Tower via NPS

Because of the lightning strike, the Mount Holmes Trail west of the junction with the Trilobite Lake Trail and the summit of Mount Holmes are closed. The closure will remain in effect until the unsafe conditions are assessed, mitigated, and no longer pose a threat to public safety.

“We are disappointed that this historic structure, as a window into the past, is gone,” said Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney.

An employee who staffs the Mount Washburn Fire Lookout observed and reported the Mount Holmes lookout structure fire Tuesday. The Mount Washburn Fire Lookout is currently staffed seven days a week, mid-June through mid-September. If warranted, three additional lookouts in Yellowstone National Park can be staffed.

Press Release from Yellowstone National Park regarding the Lookout Fire