Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fire Season

First, a book review, then a commentary on our fire season.

Our retirement home is in a small community in New Mexico. A few years ago an interesting young man spent occasional weekends in our area. Turns out he was the fire-watch on our nearby Forest Service fire tower. Also turns out he was a writer, formerly of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal or some paper of renown back east. He has written a book about the summers he spent on fire watch in the Gila National Forest, titled...Fire Season. His name is Phillip Connors. I read the book. Parts of it were wonderfully familiar as he narrated the changes from the cool winds of spring to the hot, dry tinderbox of early summer in the high desert. Other parts recounted the philosophical evolution within the national leadership and the development of the forest service within our Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for our national forests. Still other parts of the book reflect the joys of solitude, to which I can relate. Overall I recommend the book, which is about $15 from Amazon.com.

As for our fire season this year, it is in full swing and will be until the monsoon arrives, probably in early July. Our valley is filled with haze and smoke from the three large fires in the adjacent valley and on the border with Mexico. Some of the fires are more than 10,000 acres and not contained. We have already had two small fires on our side of the mountains. We haven't had rain since last November and the humidity has spent too long in the single digits. The predominant colors of our landscape are tan and brown. We have six or more long weeks to go before promise of rain, hoping we can not lose thousands of acres to wildfire -- and with them, burned or starving animals and the devastating erosion that comes with fire followed immediately by the rainy season. This leaves no time to sprout a few sprigs of grass to slow the erosion, so ash and soil cascade off the mountains leaving rocky scarp behind. The muck buries the streams and fills the river. Life is tough for our critters for several years after such a fire. Keep us in your prayers.

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