Wildfires Sweep Arizona

The recent wildfire in Arizona proves that natural disasters can be the result of man made activities. At least, that is how residents and officials dealing with the fire, which broke out around the Bear Wallow Wilderness, feel about the tragic incident that has been sweeping over a growing area of their state; in effect, destroying hundreds of thousands of acres as it moves.

The fire, which began in late May, is believed to be the product of two campfires merging together after having been left unattended by campers.  After sweeping through and subsequently destroying well over 460,000 acres (an area estimated to be around twice the size of New York City) the two campsites, where these fires are believed to have originated, are now considered crime scenes and are being treated as such—leaving officials tiptoeing around the area in order to avoid disturbing this point of interest.

“We try to protect the point of origin…It’s just like a crime scene,” explains Forest Service veteran Joe Reinarz, who has been involved in combating this massive fire since the beginning.  And just like any other crime, this fire comes with its own set of questions, leaving many of the concerned citizens asking themselves, “why?”

Fingers have been pointed in all directions in an attempt to get to the bottom of what has left at least 29 homes destroyed and several towns evacuated.  Some believe that environmentalists may be to blame because of their efforts to avoid the thinning of the forests in order to preserve the areas natural wildlife. Others look at the long stemming practice of grazing the forest grass as a main contributor—leaving the forest ground unable to hold its own against the massive fire.  Then there were the forest restrictions which (just about 10 days before) were lifted and could have been a draw for those apt to leave fires unwatched.

Whatever the reason, Mother Nature has proven difficult and has not been on the people’s side as high winds and dry air aided this fire in its growth. Because of areas with such high wind concern, fire fighters have been almost unproductive in gaining the upper hand over this fire, leaving many in frustration.

Residents in New Mexico now have new cause for concern as the fire a state away crept its way closer and closer and eventually over the state line just this Saturday.

And fire alone is not the only problem for those in the area as harmful soot spreads over and coats entire areas of the state.  Wind, which has been effective in lifting ash and soot from the fire’s location, has carried these harmful particles within the state and across the border, putting a hamper on many outdoor activities all over.  

According to Arizona Department of Environmental Quality representative Mark Shaffer, harmful elements in effected areas have caused pollution levels to become “off the charts.” Because the winds have calmed over the state, health concerns are now on the rise as stagnate toxic air has threatened many outdoor activities.  Residents are urged to keep their distance and take precautions to remain healthy while they await more equipment that are to be used to monitor the air quality. Precautions have included the cancellation of local softball games, blues concerts, and various other outdoor recreational activities.

Overall, as the fire grows so does the optimism. With the easing of winds, fire fighters have now been able to get a better control of a small (5%) area of the fire.  While it may not seem a lot, it is enough at least to slow down the fire and show all those fighting that there is an end in sight.  

Photo Credit: thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-06-08/arizona-wildfires-shocking-photos-/

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