Fires ravage western states
Stuart H. Clements
You look out over the great, vast desert paradise that you consider
home and see hazy, dreary smoke clouding the normally clear and pristine
sky of the Southwest.
Stars don't come out at night any more, and the soft sounds of breezes
and birds are replaced by the hard, penetrating buzz of aircraft flying
Soon firefighters find your neighborhood and order an evacuation. You
are forced to leave your home with minimal possessions and watch flames
consume the home that you have loved for so many years.
Your children ask you questions for which you do not know the answers,
and life goes from luxurious to desperate in a few moments, while your
government fights their latest domestic war.
Terrorists have not attacked Arizona, Colorado or New Mexico, but equal
if not greater damage and devastation is being perpetrated not by evil
mind-melted international criminals, but by careless American citizens
or Mother Nature.
Wildfires are running rampant in the Southwest and destroying forests,
businesses, homes and lives.
The threat and danger of wildfires has been one that Southwestern natives
have grown accustomed to and expect every year, but it is a problem that
the rest of the world has found all too convenient to ignore until two
On May 10, 2000 the Cerro Grande fire in New Mexico destroyed parts
of the town of Los Alamos, located in the Santa Fe National Forest. Some
victims had only 20 minutes to leave their homes before the flames arrived.
Ironically, the area of Los Alamos was created more than one million
years ago by the eruption of the Jemez volcano, which is now dead and a
major tourist attraction in New Mexico.
The reason the Los Alamos fire made national news was because of the
possible damage or destruction of Los Alamos National Laboratory -- home
of the Manhattan Project back in the 1940s, and still an extremely important
research facility in the United States.
Fortunately, the laboratory complex suffered only minimal damage. The
people of the town were not so lucky.
The Cerro Grande fire was originally a prescribed burn, but quickly
went sour as it turned into a 48,000 acre blaze. However, many wildfires
are started by natural causes, such as lightning fires.
In 1988, more than one million acres of forest in Yellowstone National
Park went up in flames over a period of several months.
Yellowstone was a natural fire, but the current policy was that certain
lightning-caused fires would be allowed to burn in the spirit of natural
selection or something.
So how "natural" was Yellowstone? Only the cause of it. Bureaucracy
kept it going.
This year Arizona and Colorado are seeing the brunt of wildfires popping
up all over the place, but New Mexico is seeing some of its own.
One New Mexico fire sprung up near Mayhill that was started by a man
who later committed suicide.
Several fires that are spreading in Colorado were also man-made; some
controlled burns and some stupid people. So far, more than 350,000 acres
of Colorado forest have fallen to fire season.
Not only are wildfires getting larger, but firefighters are getting
harder to recruit. There is a huge shortage of willing and able firefighters
right now. There are too many fires to fight with current resources.
Nevada is having a problem in some areas where there are terrible droughts,
so much so there isn't any water to fight the fires.
Arizona has it the worst, however. Rodeo Fire and Chediski Fire are
eating away at the countryside in Saguaro country.
Rodeo originated near Cibecue and has consumed 210,000 acres northward.
More than 150 structures have been confirmed destroyed, and the fire is
now visible in Show Low.
Humidity isn't getting any higher, and all that surrounds the fire is
dry foliage, so there are no estimates of containment possibilities and
the fire is only expected to grow.
Chediski is more than 121,340 acres and actually drove out firefighters
yesterday when it quickly consumed a spike camp.
Technology and research have minimized any human loss of life. New methods
of controlling fires and the use of avionics helps firefighters be more
Although there is no way to keep a natural fire from sparking, there
are many ways to keep man-made forest fires from ever happening.
When camping, forest visitors need to be careful and responsible. Dump
dirt on fires, don't leave cigarette butts lit and always keep an eye on
what you're doing.
Smokey the Bear's not the big dumb idiot people think he is. He's simply
outdated. Perhaps other methods of fire education would be more effective.