Tag Archives: Fires

The Last of the Huachucas

I cannot begin to describe the dread in which I witnessed the smoke pouring from the valley west of Coronado National Park this afternoon. I first noticed it at a cleaning job, refused to believe my eyes, but watched in horror as it rose thicker and faster as the day wore on. Cochise County Sheriff’s Dept. reports it started on the Mexican side and quickly jumped the border. The US Forest Service based at Ft. Huachuca has already dispatched air tankers with fire retardant. You can still see great white accumulations of the last year’s slurry all over the mountains—it looks like snow but doesn’t go away.

Last year’s Monument Fire burned 30,000 acres along with homes, businesses, and historical buildings  before masses of firefighters were able to contain it. It took a month.

On top of this, the Great Reconciliation I recently enjoyed with a family member has fallen flat on its face. I came home today to a true-colors email I should have expected. When oh when will I learn to trust my instincts, as I have been doing all my life. If something sounds too good to be true, you can be sure it isn’t.

Guess I picked the wrong day to quit smoking.

New forest fire started this morning around 11 am, taken from customer’s house.

New fire started today, May 8th, as seen from Rt. 92 in Sierra Vista.

School Canyon fire, near Parker Lake west of the Huachucas May 8, 2012. Note the devastation and dead trees in the foreground that will remain for many years from last year’s Monument fire.

The Almighty Power of Political Correctness

The Week in My World 6-29-11

My disillusionment with Arizona has left me uninterested in photographing local sights. I see the town differently now, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m trying. I want to love it. But I feel like one does when you’re on the verge of breaking up with someone and all the eccentric behaviors you thought were cute now annoy the shit out of you. I hope to get over this and stick out the relationship, but that tactic has never worked for me before.

None of the “We Buy Ugly Houses” companies will return my calls or e-mails, and who can blame them. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t buy a house here either. I wish the people who wrote to accuse me of racism regarding who started the Monument fire would come down here. I don’t hold it against them though—they remind me of myself when I was a young douchebag. As Henry David Thoreau once said, “some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.” If this fire was caused by a smoking rattlesnake or some insane hiker walking through Smuggler’s Gulch, I’ll eat my cheap designer rip-off Stetson. No one, and I mean no one, is allowed to discuss the cause of the fire unless you’re in a soundproof cell with a close friend and you’ve both signed a non-aggression treaty. And that’s what is so depressing. We’re sanitized. Impotent.

So I have no whimsical pictures or quirky anecdotes to share of my home this week. A muzzle has been slapped on my Arizona muse.

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.

Monument Fire Wreckage and Progress

The Monument fire in Coronado National Park was 47% contained as of this morning. My friend Janice who lives right there took me on a tour of the destruction today. When the fire jumped Rt. 92 it destroyed homes and burned miles and miles of land along Hereford Road. Many of the people evacuated last week have not been allowed to return home.

The fire has moved north to Carr Canyon, another former amazing area of the Park and a favorite refuge for me and many others. Watching the team of tanker helicopters working today was distressing but amazing. The skill and bravery of these pilots leaves you speechless. They fly directly into the burning area and drop thousands of gallons of fire-retardant material called slurry. It was about 100 degrees today but the winds have died down.

The news about this fire may be subsiding as other fires and floods rage through the United States. But to the people who live in any of these areas, life will never be the same.

Home totally destroyed by Monument Fire on Ramsey Canyon Rd. It was a sad scene watching the owners pick through the rubble. This was a historic home built in the 1920s, it used to be the Hereford Post Office. The post office part had been preserved by the owners.

House destroyed by Monument fire on Hereford Road

More wreckage from Monument fire on Ramsey Canyon Road

Rt. 92 is still blocked along along the burned area, so you can't get too close.

Carr Canyon burning 6-22-11. You can see the slurry helicopter heading into Carr Canyon on the top of the ridge.

We watched the slurry helicopters work in a team of three. The first hovers near the ground and gets filled, the second heads into the canyon, the third returns.

The tanker that just got filled heads for the canyon.

Here the first heads into the canyon while the third returns to be filled.

A favorite picture of me worshiping at Carr Canyon in better days.


My friend and animal rescue colleague Janice was evacuated tonight, the fire has spread into her neighborhood across from the Huachucas. I have three of her dogs and she’s coming with more. Two of the dogs are fosters.

I was going to do a separate post on these two small dogs, but now that they’re here at my house, here’s the story. A man had cancer. He was at home and very sick. He begged his wife to keep his two small dogs, which she did…until THE DAY he went into hospice. Then she dumped them just as fast as she could. Bitch. They are two small five-year-old chihuahua mixes, sweet and loving. We don’t want to separate them as they are best friends—they eat, sleep and play together. I introduced them to all my dogs and after the usual initial doggie who-the-hell-are-you meet and greet, everybody’s doing fine. They have no interest in my many cats. They need to be neutered, we just haven’t had time.

The cat pictures are of Gracie, the cat left behind at a foreclosed home we rescued in May (see Foster Cat of the Week). Gracie was a bag of bones when I got her, now she is healthy, has been spayed and is ready to go. She is extremely loving, wants to be in your lap, and purrs a lot. She picks fights with my other cats but she loves dogs. Border Animal Rescue paid for the spay and has had to lower the adoption fees for both cats and dogs—cats $30, dogs $50. There are just too many. All animals are fixed and given rabies shots before adoption.

9500 acres burned so far in the Monument fire, still raging. 40 homes damaged or destroyed. Power down. Evacuations continue. Today I worked in Old Bisbee and saw tiny pieces of ash floating everywhere in the air, 25 miles away. High winds today and tomorrow make the fire spread faster and hinder the slurry helicopters and the crews. There are tears and anger here. Where are the troops? Where’s the money? Fires, tornadoes, floods—where is the help for America in her time of need? In the Mideast. I am numb with rage.

Please see my last three posts for many more pictures of the Monument fire.

Monument Fire Update June 18th: 20,000 acres burned, 50 homes destroyed, 12,000 people evacuated. Wind gusts of 50-60 mph today. Extremely dangerous conditions for the firefighters and pilots. It’s also very, very hot. Chaos, anger, tears here. At least now the papers are admitting it’s “human caused.” It will never go any further than this.

There’s an article in local news source called “Impact on Wild Animals Affected by Fire” but there’s NO WAY I can read it.

Sun trying to shine through smoke from Monument fire over Bisbee 6-16-11.

Smoke from Monument fire, picture taken on Naco Highway near my house 6-16-11.

Two loving 5-year-old male chihuahua mixes need home. Chico on left, Coco on right. They both get along very well with dogs and cats. Coco is the darker one.

Two loving male chihuahua mixes up for adoption. They are very interactive with each other and with their humans.

Two chihuahua mixes need home. Funny, curious, playful. There have been a few grumbles, but everybody’s doing really well for the first night. I just made everybody go-lie-down so the two new ones can have some freedom to explore without being followed around. Jasmine would prefer to bite their little heads off, but she will do no such thing. In a few days she’ll accept them, for now, I watch her and she knows it. It’s time for me to step up to the fostering, altering, and adoption of these dogs, Janice has major stress right now.

Two male chihuahua mixes need home. Coco left, Chico right. Southern Arizona.

Two chihuahua mixes need home. Coco left, Chico right.

Gracie, two year old female tabby rescued from foreclosed house needs home. Spayed and very loving. Likes dogs, but not cats.

Gracie, two year old spayed female tabby up for adoption. Rescued from foreclosed home. VERY loving. Southern Arizona.

Gracie, two year old spayed female tabby needs home. Very loving. Likes dogs, not cats. Southern Arizona.

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