From: (David Sewell)
Subject: Fire and Heat (not chiles)
Date: 1 Jul 1994 04:57:14 GMT
Lines: 41

Weather's not culture but it shapes culture, so I can't let yesterday's record pass without comment: an all-time Arizona high temperature of 128 (53 C) at Lake Havasu. Seven straight days of 110+ here in Tucson. Albuquerque over 100. Helping to counteract, maybe, some of the earthquake-and-snowstorm-driven immigration: today's paper quotes a service-station employee as saying "I can't stand it, I'm moving back East."

The Catalina Mountains north of town are on fire, like many another mountain from California through Colorado this week. Today after work I decided on a spur-of-the-moment hike up to see the periphery of the fire. At trailhead, met a returning ground crew of five of the most exhausted humans I've ever seen, the handful of firefighters who'd been working a line on the upper wilderness section of the fire rather than a couple miles east where the country-club estates in the foothills were under potential menace. They assured me that the trail was open & that I wouldn't be interfering with anybody. In fact I hiked up about three miles & didn't meet another soul either way; finally got to a point maybe half a mile down-canyon from the leading edge of the fire. Not that it was a real "edge" in the classic forest-fire sense; in the rocky near-vertical terrain, it was instead a collection of localized hot spots, from upswept ridgeline flames to a single yucca burning on an isolated ledge improbably far from anything else. Every now and then a new large tree or bush would catch fire in a billow of dark smoke, or a yucca stalk would explode with a rifle crack. Water-bomber planes (converted B-29s?) flew improbably low over the ridge to drop water on the other, house-ward, side. The fire was beautiful, no question; when I first felt guilty about seeing it that way I thought, "Well, it's a lightning-strike fire, it's natural, so it's OK to enjoy it," and then immediately realized how out of place an appeal to ecological correctness was there: I'd like to see people who let their campfires get out of control hung by their thumbs, but a wildfire is sublime no matter what its origin.

So I'm with Frankenstein's monster: Fire good. Heat good. Makes saguaro fruit ripen. Keeps radiator hose manufacturers in business. Turns mountains into jewels at night. Makes this place the Southwest.

David Sewell  *     | "Where the earth is dry, the
RADIOCARBON, Dep't of Geosciences, U of Arizona |  soul is wisest and best."
                                                |           --Heraclitus
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