Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fire Hazard

It is impossible to live in the southwestern United States in recent years without constant worry about fire in the summers. This year has so far contained a lot of worry. The large fires in the Pecos wilderness and the Jemez Mountains seem to be under good control now, but there are more.
With the news that the Santa Fe National Forest will be closed to all access starting tomorrow, I went hiking today. Walking is one of my favorite activities. It gives me head space and when I am out there long enough, my perspective becomes much clearer. I headed out early for Tesuque Peak and ended up making an impromptu loop to a 12,400 foot peak and down a ridge route, past the sign above and down a short road walk to my car.

The sign pictured above was blocking the trail to Nambe Lake. I was not headed there as I knew it was in the previously closed Pecos Wilderness (closed for a month now but people still were milling around this sign flabbergasted that they had hiked a mile up from the trailhead and now couldn't go any further except up the steep route I had just come down). The burning of the southwest and the continuing drought is, I believe, directly related to climate change. I don't think the drought is going to lessen in any long-term way any time soon. I am no climatologist, but I do think Al Gore had a point a decade ago. There have been multiple large fires in New Mexico and my newest worry is the huge West Fork fire that started west of Wolf Creek Pass, CO, crested the Divide on Friday and is heading like a steamroller for the San Luis Valley. South Fork has been evacuated since Friday and the windy conditions and beetle-killed pine make it a fierce threat. Not only to people in South Fork but to people farther east and north. Lives change in the line of fire. (Here is a link to some amazing photos taken by one of the hotshot crews a few days ago.
And the most impressive photo:

 I was standing on the top of Deception Peak today and spotted this small fire (red arrow) a ways to the north of the line of burned trees (blue arrow) left from the recent Pecos fire. I hope it is a spot fire that they are monitoring and not a new blaze.
Below, 13,000 foot Truchas Peaks are seen in the far distance hazy from the smoke. Those are people on top of Lake Peak just a stones throw from Decepetion Peak where I was standing. But Lake Peak is in the Pecos and off-limits. Actions like these make the forest service close the forest even earlier to protect it. Please just follow the rules (at least when it comes to fire, forests, and forest protection... we can discuss breakable rules such as not splicing your yarn another time).
Walking is the kind of activity that makes tapestries come together in my head. I need the kind of head space that it affords me to see the images that become my tapestries. I don't know where I'm going to walk with the forests closed. Perhaps the monsoon will come soon, though that will cause flooding across the newly-burned forest.

I think all we really can do is Be Here Now.  (And please don't start forest fires.)
We can also support our wildland firefighters. I doubt there is a more difficult or dangerous job.


  1. Pete Blume, a commander with the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Command Team, said the wildfire is the worst ever known to hit the Rio Grande National Forest....
    Until then, Blume said, "with that much beetle kill and drought we could have every resource in the country here and still not put in a containment line."

  2. We've had someone start at least six fires in our neighborhood (north of Taos, in Valdez) in the last few weeks. We know that living in the forest requires a responsibility on our part, and the acceptance that it's when, not if, a fire will take its path up our mountain. Help from idiots we don't need; it's bad enough dealing with people who think it's still OK to burn brush or trash in this weather. It promises to be a very long summer for those of us in Northern NM.

  3. And here in Alberta, the floods. These extremes are terrifying - the destruction is unbelievable. Fire, flood and famine. We're all in the same boat, really, and we each of us need to look at our individual responsibility to this earth and the way we treat it. Yikes.


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