Tag Archives: Environment

Monument Fire + Monsoon = Mudslides

Monsoon started about a week ago and so far it’s a strong one. There are various scientific methods used to predict the strength of an upcoming monsoon, but it turns out to be whatever nature decides.

But one thing is certain, and that is when mountain forests suffer major fire damage, natural waterways are not enough to absorb the heavy rains. The water has no place to go but down. On my way home today from Sierra Vista, mudflow had closed roads and I learned after stopping and asking that once again the people who live at the base of the Huachucas were told to evacuate.

Everybody here knows how the Monument fire started, but it has yet to be made official, and likely never will. I honestly can no longer see myself having a life here.

This is what Rt. 92 looks like all along Coronado National Park where the Monument fire burned for two weeks.

Monsoon rain is not like a normal rainy day. It comes in heavy bursts with high winds that can last for hours, stop, then start again. It's usually the best time of the year.

Miller Canyon Road off Rt. 92 was closed and the homes that firefighters saved will be in danger again for the next two to three months.

With the trees gone, mud comes down the mountains.

Natural waterways, called washes, are unable to contain the flow.

Streets flood with mud and debris.

We live near several prisons and often see "cons" doing various work around town. Today they had them making sandbags. The sandbags are loaded into trucks and placed around houses. I asked a con who helped me at the dump the other day what he was in for—two pounds of pot. What a waste of taxpayer money.

Update 7-12-11. Picture from KGUN 9 News. The mudslide was worse than I knew. It ruined homes and this is just the beginning.

Subduing the Beast—Monument Fire Update

Rt. 92 along the burned-out Monument fire area reopened last night. I drove to Sierra Vista today to place Gracie, the little gray cat rescued from a foreclosed home, at PetSmart. They have an adoption section with rescue animals only. Gracie is extremely loving and it was very hard to say goodbye, but she does not get along with my cats and I refuse to isolate her. I beg for any powers there may be in this world that somebody fall in love with her, and fast.

Law enforcement, firefighters, border patrol, and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Dept. believe that illegals or smugglers started this fire. They have pinpointed the ignition point on the border. But since anybody who dares to voice this ends up in a shitstorm, the cause of it will probably never be officially announced. Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, whose territory includes 80 miles of border, has publicly stated his beliefs and is fielding accusations of racism.

It is still only 64% contained as of today, with growth potential still extreme. Its current size is 29,746 acres burned, with 1,170 people still assigned to the fire, including 27 crews, 92 engines, and 7 helicopters. They are still performing controlled burns and constructing lines by hand with air support to prevent the fire from spreading into the next canyon, Ramsey Canyon.

Everywhere along Rt. 92 are handmade signs thanking the firefighters. I took the following pictures today along the area that was closed to the public for nearly two weeks.

Horrible events are happening all over, all the time. Life just sucks for so many of earth’s creatures, both human and animal, I can hardly stand it.

Three restaurants were destroyed along Rt. 92: Nick's, Ricardo's, and Angelika's German Imports

Monument fire wreckage on Rt. 92

Ricardo's Restaurant wreckage from Monument fire

Monument fire damage on Rt. 92

Ricardo's Restaurant wreckage, Rt. 92

Owners of Angelika's German Imports survey the ruins of their business

Burned land along Rt. 92 where it jumped the highway and caused mass evacuations

This little home is called a yurt. It was damaged but saved. Though about 60 homes were lost, the firefighters did an amazing job of saving homes. It could have been much, much worse.

Incident Command Center was set up at a school in Hereford. It looks like a small city. This section holds a group of tents for exhausted firefighters.

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.

Coronado National Park Fire Update (Huachucas)

It is fast becoming the worst fire season ever for Arizona. There are currently three major fires burning: The Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona, which has consumed 444,000 acres and is only 10% contained, the Horseshoe Fire in the southeastern part of the state which has burned 134,000 acres, and a new one that started at 1:00 pm yesterday in the Huachuca Mountains in Sierra Vista, very close to where I live and very dear to all of us. They’re now calling it the Monument Fire because it’s in the Coronado National Monument system, but the park is officially called Coronado National Memorial here.

I had to take a foster cat to Sierra Vista today to be spayed, and I waited to pick her up at my friend Janice’s house near Sierra Vista. We watched the mountains burning from her yard. We saw many people who had to evacuate driving by with trailers full of horses. The smoke is very bad and everybody’s faces are swollen and noses are running. This is nothing compared to what the animals who live in the forests must endure. The various ranges of Coronado National Park are comprised of “sky islands,” each an ecosystem unto itself. The animals that live in the various systems, called ecotones, cannot survive in another system.

I picked up the cat and on my way home I stopped a few times to take pictures. Many roads are are blocked by border patrol and police. I talked to some of them. Yesterday the news said the Monument fire had burned 100 acres, today it’s 3000 acres. I asked if this was true, they said easily—this fire started at the border. It is zero percent contained.

They said on the radio the fire started near “Smugglers Gulch,” right on the border. This forest is known for drug and human smuggling. Since the park has been closed to visitors since June 9th because of extremely dry conditions and high winds, it is assumed the fire was started by smugglers. There are many smaller fires that do not make national news. To see how beautiful this area is (was), see We Don’t Need No Stinking Guardrails, posted three weeks ago.

The destruction these fires cause has to be seen to be believed. We do need more border protection, but 2,000 miles of border, 370 miles of it in Arizona is a lot of land to cover.

Monument fire from friend’s yard near Hereford 6-13-11

Monument fire from Hereford Rd 6-13-11

Monument fire from Hereford Rd 6-13-11

Monument fire from Rt. 92 6-13-11

Monument fire from Rt. 92 6-13-11

I think this is a firefighting helicopter, I read there are four of them working on this fire.

Monument fire from Rt. 92 6-13-11

Beloved Coronado National Park on Fire

I worked in Sierra Vista today. The ride in was uneventful. A few minutes into the ride home, around 4:30 p.m., I started to see the monster and knew immediately where it was. My beloved Coronado Park, my refuge, one of the wonders of the world, is on fire.

The park has been closed since June 9th because it is so dry here, they had planned on keeping it closed until monsoon starts in July. This part of the Huachuca Mountains is a huge corridor for drug and human smuggling. They won’t say it in the papers, but it is assumed this fire was started by smugglers. Sometimes fires are started to divert attention, sometimes it’s just carelessness. Everybody here knows. The firemen tell me because I ask, the people who work in the park tell me because I ask.

Traffic was redirected, I was not allowed to continue toward home on Rt. 92. Tonight I went on my roof and could see the flames, it is about 20 miles from my home. Last report earlier this afternoon was 100 acres burned so far, but that was hours ago. I have not been able to get an updated report online (I don’t have TV). See We Don’t Need No Stinking Guardrails for beautiful pictures I took in the park exactly three weeks ago.

Huachuca Fire 6-12-11

Huachuca Fire 6-12-11

Huachuca Fire 6-12-11

Huachuca Fire 6-12-11

Huachuca Fire 6-12-11