Arizona Burning

Posted: June 9, 2011 in AZ, Global Warming
Tags: ,

Unfortunately, Arizona is facing another difficult and dangerous fire season.

The Wallow fire has scorched over 300,000 acres in the eastern part of the state and has been jumping over containment lines.  The fire covers over 600 square miles in both the Apache and Sitegreaves National Forests–this is about the areas of New York City and Chicago combined (ht NYTimes).

According to the news on the radio (KTAR 92.3) this morning, the fire swept through the town of Greer last night.  They can’t report just how bad the damage is until all the residents have been notified as to the status of their properties.  I suspect this means that the town was decimated.  I really hope I am wrong.

In the White Mountains, Greer is a gorgeous vacation spot with lots of things to do year round.  The loss of that beautiful landscape, and of course, the personal losses that will have occurred is incredibly sad.

Greer, AZ

Beautiful Greer, AZ

One thing they said on the news was that yesterday the humidity was 4% and today it is 6%–this is drier than kiln dried lumber you can buy at Home Depot.  It’s not uncommon for AZ to experience 10% to 20% humidity levels but 4%?!  It’s also not uncommon for area very high in altitude to maintain single digit humidity readings because the thin air just can’t support that much water.  But we’re talking Rocky Mountain elevation, not the 8500 feet of somewhere like Greer or Eagar, AZ.

As this fire spreads new evacuations are occurring in Eagar and Springerville. As of today, the fire is 0% contained.

Someone thought they make everyone’s lives worse and started 9 separate fires near Flagstaff in a rural subdivision.  That one is 20% contained. Flagstaff, one of my favorite areas to visit, is surrounded by Coconino National Forest.

In addition to the stress and loss the residents will suffer, there are some short-term effects that all Arizonans will feel including:

  • Added stress on animal rescue societies that have been over capacity due to the Recession
  • Dangerously high particulates in the air.  An Ozone High Pollution Advisory has been issued for today by the National Weather Service.  This is a result of high temps, dry weather, lack of wind, man-made pollution and wildfire particulates.  People with asthma, like my daughter, are advised to stay indoors.  That sucks, quite frankly because in the summer the only thing for her to do is swim.
  • Local economies will tank since so much of the areas affected rely heavily on tourism.  No one is going to go visit an area wiped out by a wildfire for years to come.
Arizona has always had wildfires so this isn’t anything new.  However, a study (and I’m sure it’s not the only one) has found that global warming that causes an earlier Spring has increased the incidents of Wildfires over the last 30 years.  So it looks like we’re going to be seeing this  more and more often.

 

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/10/us/10wildfire.html?_r=1

KTAR 92.3 News-Talk

http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/09/2258067/fires-prompt-home-evacuations.html

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/313/5789/940.full

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