With a year like 2020, a person never knows what to expect next. Writing would be a good thing, if someone could let go of all that's going on and bury themselves in another world. I envy those who can do that and maybe I'll be able to eventually, but right now I find myself immersed in my life and what I read in the news, and finding it difficult to write on my fiction story, one I like the idea of writing, but just haven't had the right energy to give it. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
Besides the virus, which has meant my husband and I not returning to the farm, leaving the cattle and sheep to our son's care, Tucson has been hit by one of its most destructive fires in years. It is burning large chunks of the Catalina Mountains, impacting our lives with smoke and concern for where it goes next. It all began with some early monsoon storms-- the night of June 5th, one particularly dangerous dry lighting storm.
Saturday morning, June 6th, we were sitting in our backyard, talking. It was our son's birthday and his present was it was the day the shearer could do the sheep. Not much of a birthday present, but he seemed okay with it. It's more troubling to us not to be there for what's been our life for over 40 years. Unplanned as this at this time due to life changes and the pandemic, we felt disturbed and yet understanding. One generation lets go and another takes over. We were lucky we had a son who can take over.
That afternoon, the temperature was about 96ºF, perfect for the patio misting cooling system to make it pleasant enough to be outside. As we watched the birds, good for de-stressing (and who doesn't need that these days), we saw jets fly surprisingly low. We thought they were headed to the airport. Never had we seen ones so big so low. Two of them. We watched to see where they went but lost them. I remember how blue the sky was, so pure of color. Often, it's that way above Pusch Ridge, the mountain range that is part of the Catalinas and not many miles, as a crow flies, from our house.
Later that afternoon, my husband saw the smoke. That's when we realized the plane we'd seen was a fire fighting jet and had been dropping fire retardant to try to put an inflammable barrier between the fires and homes in a development called La Reserve. We looked for information on it and found the fire, called the Bighorn, because this is part of their habitat was maybe 10 acres to begin but growing.
When we took photos that night, our concern grew that this was going to be far bigger than taking out some scrub brush that would supposedly make the habitat better for the bighorn sheep. Supposedly, there wasn't much there for the fire to burn. No problem or so they said. To us, it didn't look that way as we saw how it spread.
Seeing the fire fighting plane reminded us how wonderful it was that there are those who are trained to help the rest of us. They give up their free time, face danger, and we count on them. I grew up in a time that was less true.
People, who have never been to Southern Arizona have no idea how important the mountains are to the terrain. Tucson is ringed by mountains as it sets in what once was a river valley, the Santa Cruz as well as others rivers flowing out of the mountains. The tallest of these is Mt. Lemmon at 9157 feet.
When we first came to Tucson, we didn't know what to expect as we were from the Northwest. What we found was a lot more green than we expected as well as this mountain that was right above the city. The first time we drove up there, we found tall pines, fires, and other deciduous trees. It even had a ski resort as it gets quite a bit of snow up there during the winter. Mountain cabins and a lovely lake, cool when the desert was baking, and a total break from the cactus down below.
That's what is at stake as the Catalinas are ablaze with canyons filled with oaks and willows, small and bigger streams. A treasure where Tucsonians love to hike and recreate... or did before the night the lightning bolt hit and when the fire wasn't taken seriously enough to begin.
It doesn't just threaten the mountain but the ridges on the way up covered with saguaro cactus that provide habitat for birds as well as beauty. Often the birds make their homes in them. Where do they go now if they got out in time that and the javelina, bobcats, cougar, and my heart is breaking with all the damage this will do for years to come if it can ever be recovered.
After not being aggressive enough (in my opinion) in the beginning, crews were brought it along with more planes professionals who knew how to fight fires this big, but the fire continued to grow and threaten several directions at once. It is one fire and yet it is not. It got into several canyons along the Catalina Mountains and forced closures as well as some evacuations.
The thing is, with the extreme heat and afternoon winds, they are limited in how they can fight the fire. They protected the observatory up there, but the cabins are still under evacuation orders. These rugged hills aren't easy for fire fighting; so much has to come from the air like the jet we had first seen and the helicopters with buckets of water.
I'd like to put this aside along with our cultural upheavals and the virus that is still very real. It's hard when it's so visible. When we thought the fire was heading up to the mountain, it turned and came back down to La Canada del Oro Wash, which happens to be the wash that is one house over from ours. They should be able to stop it from getting across Oracle Road, a six lane plus wide boulevard with businesses along it. Shoulds though haven't done much where it has come to this fire or really any fire as Arizona has several bad ones going right now..
As it stands, I am stuck staying inside to avoid the smoke, which would cause me sinus problems. A virus, a fire, smoke. What else is out there? Don't bother to tell me. I did see that Mercury is going retrograde...
Except, more is going on than the fire and the virus. For fun, try this for what Elle Marlow and a group of writers got together to create. If you want a break from bad news, read some romances-- guaranteed happy ending.