Back in 1984, when I first moved to Tucson, we lived a block or two south of Linda Vista Street. I put up a number of rock climbing first ascents on Pusch Mountain, and Big Horn Peak -- both areas are now on fire:
Last I saw (this morning) the fire was still spreading, but from our backyard it does not seem to be producing as much smoke as it was yesterday. "Old Tucson," the TV and movie sets, are way out west, about 20 miles away from the mountains, so your relatives should be safe there. Oracle Highway, 6 lanes and a median divider, mark the probable western limits of any fire. What has happened generally is the eastern movement of the flames across the Santa Catalina range, into the heavily forested canyons and ridges. 2012 was the last "great fire" to follow that pattern, took out about 1/2 of the forests. So far, the news outlets still say, "no evacuations, no structures threatened." About 2000 acres involved, last I heard.
But, it sounds like there is a benefit, as long as human life and structures aren't impacted. "The low-intensity fire should help clear dense and overgrown vegetation, forest officials said. The burn will help the bighorn sheep in the area by removing vegetation cover used by predators, officials said."
For the Pine Barrens of NJ, fire is necessary for the pines to germinate. The pinecones only release their seeds in high heat. If fire is prevented, other tree species take over. Unfortunately, fire is often prevented because of human encroachment.
Average rainfall is 11 inches, last year we got 14 -- but it dries out so quickly when it gets hot early and when even the peaks did not have enough cold to keep their snows for long. Enough rain fell to get the scrubby vegetations really growing, but all dried out now and providing vast heaps of tinder.
Yeah a burn is often necessary, beneficial through time, but the really huge fires can wipe out entire ecosystems where the last of the old growth remains. Double-edged?
A cooler night, this last one, left the window open, woke to smarting eyes and the scent of burning. The wind turned more northward in the night. 2500 acres now, and moving over the front range, getting into the canyons that lead up to the forested zones. So far, still no evacuations needed, and only a few ranger shacks and tool sheds damaged...
The latest news says 10% contained, a bit more than 2500 acres involved -- not much change from yesterday. We are lucky to be situated west and north of the fire-epicenter, and the usual winds this time of year are from the south west. The heavy smoke is moving away from us and the heavily populated Oro Valley area. Unfortunately, it spills over some of the mountain ridges down into Tucson proper, but no flames near the populated zones, just smoke hazards, people being warned to stay inside.
The winds are forecast to increase today, and a surge in temperature will exacerbate the difficulties of fire-fighting.
Not sure if it is related, but we seem to be getting increased wildlife activity in our neighborhood -- more birds drinking at the bath-basins, more deer on the golf courses. Even had a solitary, scrawny coyote come ambling down the 4 inch wide partition wall of our back patio. Never seen that before, though the walls do act as a connecting highway for foxes, bob cats and an occasional mountain lion. I thought the doglike coyote would be too clumsy for such a balancing act.
Was up at 3 AM this last night, wandered out on the patio. Watched the flames moving up the slopes about 7 miles south of us. Latest reports are getting grim -- part of the fire has moved close to housing developments in north Tucson, while another tongue of the conflagration is following the west side of the range, moving northward toward a scattered community. Authorities have warned them to be ready fr an evacuation.
Half of the fire has moved southeast and is following the "front range." It started moving into the foothill communities of north Tucson at 6 PM. Local news reported almost 5000 acres have been impacted, and mandatory evacuations began this Thursday afternoon. So far about 700 people are now displaced as a cautionary measure -- not sure if any of the endangered houses have actually been burned yet. Just at 8 PM Tucson time, we went out to see the flames. The second "fire-front" is north of the front range, and moving spectacularly up Romero Canyon to the east of Catalina State Park. This park is on the same major highway that serves our community, Oracle Highway. But, while highly visible from our patio, the fires are still some 7 miles south of us, and seem to be moving upslope and eastward, not northward toward us. The winds have shifted so that we are getting little smoke right here -- but the unfortunate folks of north Tucson are having considerable difficulty from heavy blankets of the stuff.