Yellowstone Park Employee Sustains 'Significant' Thermal Burns at Old Faithful Geyser

A woman suffered significant "thermal burns" in Yellowstone National Park on Thursday, according to officials.

The 19-year-old woman—a concessions employee at the park—was injured early yesterday morning at Yellowstone's famous "Old Faithful" geyser.

A statement from the National Park Service (NPS) said the individual from Rhode Island experienced second- and third-degree burns to five percent of her body.

Park rangers provided initial care but due to the nature of her injuries, she was taken by ambulance to West Yellowstone and then airlifted to the Burn Center at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

The NPS said in the statement, which was published on Thursday, that officials are now investigating the incident.

Yellowstone park is home to a vast hydrothermal system, including mudpots, steam vents, hot springs and the world's greatest concentration of geysers.

Geysers are hot springs that intermittently spew out jets of steam and scalding hot water. In the case of Old Faithful, these eruptions are highly predictable, occurring roughly every 35 to 120 minutes.

According to the NPS, the ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile with scalding water just below the surface.

"Everyone must always remain on boardwalks and trails and exercise extreme caution around thermal features," the NPS statement said.

The latest incident represents the first significant injury in Yellowstone's thermal areas this year.

In 2020, a 3-year-old sustained second-degree thermal burns to the lower body and back. In the same year, a visitor who had entered the park illegally fell into a thermal feature at Old Faithful.

A similar incident occurred in September 2019, when a man suffered severe burns after falling into thermal water near the cone of Old Faithful. In June 2017, a man was severely burned after falling into a hot spring in the Lower Geyser Basin.

In June 2016, a man slipped off a boardwalk and died after falling into a hot spring in Norris Geyser Basin. Another similar fatality occurred in the Lower Geyser Basin in August 2000.

The NPS has a set of guidelines for keeping safe in Yellowstone's thermal areas:

  • Always walk on boardwalks and designated trails. Keep children close and do not let them run on boardwalks.
  • Do not touch thermal features or runoff.
  • Swimming or soaking in hot springs is prohibited. More than 20 people have died from burns suffered after they entered or fell into Yellowstone's hot springs.
  • Pets are prohibited in thermal areas.
  • Do not throw objects into hot springs or other hydrothermal features.
  • Toxic gases may accumulate to dangerous levels in some hydrothermal areas. If you begin to feel sick while exploring one of our geyser basins, leave the area immediately.

Newsweek has contacted the National Park Service for comment.

Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park
Old Faithful geyser erupting in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. On Thursday, a 19-year-old woman suffered "significant" thermal burns at the geyser. iStock