The big Wallow fire is burning about 35 miles from my house, but fortunately it is headed north east instead of west. It is now threatening the New Mexico towns of Luna and Reserve. Springerville, Eager, Greer, Alpine, Nutrioso, and Round Valley in Arizona have been evacuated. Last night's news said the fire had burned through Greer, destroying 22 homes, 24 outbuildings, and a truck. They also said it was about 5% contained. There is a very long way to go.
Evacuees are staying in St. Johns and the Show Low area (Lakeside, Pinetop and Show Low.) Many folks have probably gone back down to the Valley (Phoenix area) or other towns up here on the Mogollon Rim. It was such beautiful country, tall ponderosa pines, and mixed pinyon and juniper forests with grasslands here and there. However, years of drought have taken their toll and the forests are very dry. We had a snowy winter, but the summer monsoons haven't started yet. Please, do your rain dances, pray for the winds to die down and the humidity to increase.
There are other fires burning in Arizona, so I don't want to forget the people effected by those fires. I hope they are well and safe, and that those fires are being contained. But the fire that started in the Bear Wallow Wilderness is the big one this year.
When the Rodeo-Chedeski fire burned up here several years ago, I was still living in the Valley. It was a huge fire, and it took a long time to put out. The Wallow fire is going to be bigger, if it isn't already. Fire is one of Mother Nature's cleansers. When the forest gets old, or dry, or diseased, lightening starts a fire and it sweeps through and cleans out what isn't needed, then new life begins. Ponderosa pines don't like to be crowded, and the mature trees have evolved to tolerate fast-moving fires that clear out the understory. When the fires move more slowly, however, and crown in the trees, the trees die and the forest goes to grassland. Then opportunistic plant species move in, different species of wildlife move in, and it can take centuries for the forest to regenerate.
Nature moves in long cycles, and human habitation in the numbers currently living in this area is relatively recent. We are caught in these cycles and we get very upset when the expectations of always having green forests in this area, or any forested area, are not met. The west is not capable of supporting large numbers of people without modifying nature in huge ways. We have to import water from far away. We plow up the deserts for farms, destroying the natural plants and animals, and our garbage and our pets invite the native predators into our neighborhoods and cities. We cut down trees for homes and businesses, and then wonder why the rainy season brings flooding. We carve up the prairies, removing the natural sod, and then bemoan the dust storms.
We humans are a part of nature, not above it, and not separated from it in any way. We are the greatest force nature has unleashed on the planet in the last two million years. Yet, we have set ourselves against nature, rebuilding the natural world with concrete and steel, designing it to fit our wants. Now, the nature we are a part of seems to be warring with us. Who is going to win??