Arizona in Extremis

Bisbee, AZ is cornered between two major fires, the Horseshoe (134,000 acres)  to our northeast and the Monument (3,700–4,600 acres depending on reports) to our west. Today Bisbee was engulfed in a miasma of smoke. I don’t know if smoke from the biggest fire, the Wallow (444,000 acres, north of us), is hitting us, but there have been reports that the smoke from these fires can be seen as far north as Iowa so it depends on the wind. It is the reek of the ruination of our forests and the animals who live there.

I had a disturbing phone conversation with my friend Janice this afternoon, who lives directly across from the Huachuca Mountains (part of Coronado National Park and the Monument fire). She was crying, doesn’t know if she’ll be evacuated, and is worried about her many dogs. She could barely speak as she has respiratory problems and the smoke is so thick. Rt. 92 is closed as they fear the fire may spread across the highway. Power lines are down. The Monument fire continues to grow, it is zero percent contained. Right now the firefighters are digging trenches. I read that even with all the modern technology, it is still shovels and axes that eventually get a fire contained. These are rugged, steep mountains which makes this job as difficult as could possibly be.

There is anger and fear here. We would like to see the people responsible for this slowly burn to death. If the smugglers burn all the forests along the border, how will they hide? How can they be so stupid and cruel?  They’ll never, ever, catch them.

Note: Just read the Monument fire has jumped Rt. 92. Evacuations unofficially announced by Cochise County. A shelter has been established at Palominas School BUT NO ANIMALS WILL BE ALLOWED! When will they learn that people will not leave their best friends behind?

Update 6-15-11:  5,200 acres burned.

Update 6-16-11:  9,300 acres burned. My friend who lives on the north side of Hereford Road reports mandatory evacuation across street but not yet on his side. He wants to know where the hell is the National Guard? More than 40 homes have been damaged or destroyed. Officials are telling residents to expect a long drawn out affair and to plan for evacuation. High winds are forecast for Thursday and Friday.

Update 6-18-11: 20,000 acres burned, 50 homes destroyed, 12,000 people evacuated. High winds today, 50-60 mph gusts. Everybody is pissed off or crying, taking it hour by hour. Networks set up for pets of evacuees. Horses and cattle major problem.

Smoke from Horseshoe fire seen from Rt. 92 in Bisbee across from Safeway.

Smoke from Horseshoe fire seen from my backyard.

Looking in the other direction, west, from the street near my house, smoke from the Monument fire.

These red helicopters have been flying back and forth all day. We are used to seeing border patrol helicopters, but I've never seen these before two days ago. These are the slurry helicopters, they pick up thousands of gallons of fire-retardant material called slurry and squeeze into canyons where vehicles can't go. It's an extremely dangerous job.

Monument fire from Rt. 92 near Sierra Vista.

Monument fire at night. Photo by Kresent Gurtler.

30 responses to “Arizona in Extremis

  1. Oh MY. What to say? That last photo? It looks like war. I am so sorry.

  2. Thank you Kay. I am trying not to be too dramatic and use the word “death,” but that is what I’m feeling. I know people say that nature will recover, but it won’t be in my lifetime. My beautiful, beloved playground is dying. When it’s all over I won’t be able to look at it much less visit. I want to move to a wet place.

    • We have enough natural disaster on this planet. We don’t need any human-caused disaster! I always imagine things like this from the viewpoint of aliens, watching from a distance, shaking their heads at us. This is what we do to our home. Yet we’re the most intelligent species? According to whom?

      Nature may recover, but to think about all the suffering going on right now… there just isn’t a word strong enough. I know I’m preaching to the choir, so this comment is pretty pointless.

  3. I wonder if the fort could release all non-essential Soldiers to help fight the fire. They might not be trained specifically, but they might be able to free up some firefighters so they can perform other functions. What if they had 500, 1,000 or more Soldiers to help?

    • Hi David, that would probably help a lot. I don’t know if they do that, or if not why they don’t. I’m going to find out though. What would be even better would be to bring all our soldiers home from the Mideast and put them to work patrolling the border.

  4. Thank you for being there for Janice. I know that is a load off her mind.

    • Poor thing, she is so stressed out. The fire must be rising because I just walked down my street and can clearly see the flames, it’s only 20 miles away. Can’t see them in the daytime because of the smoke…I think, I’m not sure why. Though I’ve never been on a battlefield, this is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.

  5. Just remembered my Bisbee Photo Album & thought you might be interested. In fact, you may even be in it somewhere………:))

  6. Living two miles off the border’s not for the faint of heart under the best of circumstances these days. Add fire to the mix and it’s ghastly.

    I’ve not heard a single suggestion in the Houston media that the fires are a result of the ongoing border wars or that they’ve been intentionally set. My mom’s in ICU and that’s kept me a little distracted, so I may have missed the reports. I swear I don’t know what’s going to happen if they don’t do something about that border, but I have my suspicions and none of them are good.

    Practically speaking, do you know of any reputable organizations that are helping with the shelter of animals for people who are displaced by this? There’s been a bit of a network developed here on the Texas coast because of the same issue cropping up during hurricanes – people not evacuating because they won’t leave their animals. If you have any suggestions for good groups accepting contributions I’ll get the word into the Weather Underground community. There are a lot of good folks there with a passion for animals and a desire to help.

    • Hi Shoreacres, they rarely say in news articles how the fires start. They may have a clue about the huge Wallow Fire because the park was open at the time for camping, but the Coronado Park was closed due to extreme fire hazard 4 days before the fire started, so it was no camper. And it sure wasn’t lightning. The rains aren’t due for another month. It absolutely does not rain here until monsoon, hence, no lightning.

      I talk to border patrol, cops, and firefighters whenever I can because that’s the only place to get the truth.

      This Monument fire, which I can see from my house, is devastating. All we see now is black ground, smoke, and at night you can see the flames.

      No, I don’t know of any networks for saving animals. Horses have been burned and I’m sure millions of small animals who live in the park. It’s the only place I can go to see squirrels, which I miss so much. I can’t stop crying.

      On my home page today, all I saw was Libya, Libya, Libya. Fuck Libya.

  7. Be there to help Janice but then please come to new jersey. we get all kinds of weather here but there is plenty of wet in the winter (snow) and spring and summer (rain). come to new brunswick and i will help you and your crew find a place. I would say mine except i’m renting to students and i have 5 cats. there is plenty of lodging here because it is a college town. There are several newspapers and Rutgers University all of which would make ample use of your editorial and verbal skills and also ample forums for your art. PLEEEZE COME HERE! dont even think about it. i’m already anticipating our first cuppa coffee.

    • Ann, you’re a dear and thank you. But I am trapped here. I couldn’t give my house away. There are houses for sale around here that have been on the market for years. There were jobs here six years ago when we moved here to escape the insane expense of Connecticut, but now there are none. Our government is much, much too busy spending billions overseas to worry about us little people dying here in the US.

      I’m sorry I sound bitter. I am. I have shut my windows and blinds today. I don’t want to see the fire or smell the smoke. I’m keeping my dogs in. We’re all just sick about it. Our beautiful high desert is turning into a wasteland.

      Thanks Ann for caring.

  8. Hang in there Debra – and get out if there’s even a chance of it coming your way. The desert will recover – it will take time.

  9. One more try – here in da northeast we have lots of companies that will buy any house in any condition, not for big bucks but just to take it off your hands then they rehab it and sell for more, kind of like with used cars. any such companies there? google up a we-buy-houses thread and see what comes up. I WANT Y’ALL OUTTA THERE. By the way I think David’s idea about sending soldiers is a great one. Where is your governor? Sheesh, our fat buffoon could do a better job for his people.

  10. I don’t have any wisdom, but I wanted to say that I am sorry to see this, doing my kind of prayer. Hang in there.

  11. that’s funny, Debra; I’m sure I left a comment to this blog but when I went to read your response I couldn’t find the original comment

  12. Hi Debra, I found your blog through a blog post on another blog I read. I have not yet been to Arizona, but it is high on my list of places I want to go. I’ve been following the news stories of the battle against the fires – I hope that they start to make headway soon!!

    • Hi Jessica, thank you. There won’t be much left to visit though. Everybody thinks Arizona is one big desert, but it’s not. We live in the “high desert.” In the summer when the rains start it is as lush as any eastern forest. The forests are so precious, all I can see is smoke and black charred mountainsides.

  13. Debra, found your blog through The Bayfield Bunch. We spend every winter down in AZ and I am so in love with the desert. I would live there year round but my hubby likes the fishing in MT in the summer.

    I just cannot believe our beautiful gorgeous desert is on fire. And all I can do is cry. My heart is breaking for you, for us, for everyone who loves the desert, and especially for all the animals that won’t survive. And the shelter won’t let in animals? How stupid can they be!!!

    My prayers are with you and everyone else at this time. MT has been hit by floods this year, but the water does recede and the mud can be mucked up eventually in the next few years. But the forests in AZ – you’re right. We won’t live to see them come back.

    I will be following your blog so please keep us updated. Anything that we can do, please let us know.

    • Hi Sandie, thank you. It’s breaking our hearts too. One guy in the paper who lives up there said he saw deer, foxes, and rabbits running for their lives. I can’t stop crying. They added a couple more slurry helicopters but there are only about 400 (some reports say 300) firefighters working on the fire. They are not pulling soldiers off Ft. Huachuca because they are on tight rotation to go overseas to fight futile, expensive wars in shithole countries by our government. It’s like we have no federal government at all except to make things worse.

  14. Debra – I just read some of your posts about being an atheist and I hope I didn’t offend you when I said I would pray. I truly know my Heavenly Father but I also believe in allowing others the freedom to not believe. We both love the desert – that’s all that matters.

    • Sandie, I am certainly not offended. I envy people who can pray if it gives you comfort. But I have to say it’s not working. I’m sure most of the people in Arizona are praying at this minute, but it does nothing but help them, not the circumstances.

  15. Hi Debra. I also found you through the Bayfield Bunch blog. We are fulltime RVers who spend lots of time in Arizona. Spent a month in Sierra Vista this past March, visiting friends and doing lots of birding in the area now burning. This is so heartbreaking. And now I am crying also. Feel so helpless. So sorry for all the people and animals affected by this terrible tragedy. Not much else I can say.

    • Thank you Jo. I’m an avid birder too. At least they can fly away, though they’re losing their nests by the thousands. But the problem is it’s their home. As you know, there are many ecosystems within the mountains. Gone.

  16. Thank you for your blog posts. I am from Sierra Vista, my family is there right now while I’m stuck in Germany watching everything happen. I appreciate your words and you sharing your journey through this whole ordeal. I was taken aback by the picture of the fire at night. I also have a blog, would it be ok with you if I post that picture there? If not, please let me know. I hope you stay out of harm’s way, and I’m praying for this thing to go away fast. Thank you again.

    • Hi Brian, thank you. This must be very hard on you. I had a deep spiritual connection with the Huachucas and the Park, as many people here did.

      The night picture is probably the most shocking of them all, and the one picture I did not take, so please give the photographer noted in the caption credit. I’m sure he won’t mind, in fact that picture has become sort of a symbol of the destruction.

      Thank you for writing and for your good wishes. Please write or email me anytime.


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