the perils of living in the wild

RIP Members of Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crewyarnell

Let no one fool you. Arizona is the wild west. Even if you live in the population centers of Tucson, Flagstaff, or Phoenix, you chance having an encounter with something you would prefer not to run in to. A scorpion, a javelin, a bobcat, an elk, a bear…

A really big difficulty in this state is the end of May through the beginning of July. Mid-June starts monsoon season officially. It is defined as a shifting of the winds. However, as my wife points out, the monsoon rains don’t always show up at the same time. During this time, Arizona is at its driest period of the year before those rains show up. It’s also the hottest period of the year as well. So combine the fact that many people spend their summers outdoors in the more sparsely populated areas of this state (coming from both inside Arizona, outside Arizona, and even outside of the country) with the chance of a random storm cell that is producing a little bit of lightning, you have a recipe for potential disaster.

Last year’s wildfire season was not quite as active as this year’s is turning out to be. Without looking at anything official, I want to say there have probably been at least 7-8 moderate to major wildfires in the state so far. The ones that have hit the news the heaviest are two near Prescott. One is northwest of their by a few miles called the Doce Wildfire. That one was caused by humans. It burned nearly seven thousand acres. However, it is almost fully contained. The other started this weekend and was caused by a lightning strike near the small town of Yarnell. It was only 8 acres in size at first. However, it’s already grown to two thousand acres by the end of the weekend. The town of Yarnell has been evacuated and it is reported that nearly half the town is in flames. The Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crew that led a successful charge to put out the Doce fire ended up getting encircled by the Yarnell fire today and were killed. The worst wildfire tragedy in the state’s history, and the worst in the country in the past 80 years.

Tara and I have often talked about how we do enjoy Arizona. But we have fondly spoken of the possibilities of moving up to higher elevation areas. The temperatures would be cooler, and perhaps the houses would be better insulated! But it does make you think. Are you any more in danger from wildfires if you move closer to the fuel?

2011 09 23 fire smoke sunsetWhen we first got moved out to Arizona, there was already a fire burning on Pinal Peak, which is a mountain located a few miles to the south. The story was that no one was actively fighting that fire because it wasn’t threatening any structures and the terrain was too steep to have crew up there. Driving up there a year later, Tara and I could both tell you that we saw where the burned areas are, and we wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to actively fight a fire on that terrain. But it just goes to show that it can happen anywhere.

That was also the year of the Bastrop County fire in central Texas and a very major fire near Colorado Springs.

Prayers and blessings to the families of those lost today for comfort.