Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Flagstaff: A Land of Fire and Ice

I love Flagstaff.  Ever since I traveled here from Pennsylvania with my college track team during Spring Training in 1993, I've been captured by it's mountains, it's people and it's curative energy.  So when the Jif hit the fan last month I felt something in me snap then slowly sadden...which brings me to this cathartic blog post...

“Fires are neither evil or good. It’s not black and white, not all good or all bad. They do what they do—burn. They get carried by the weather and pushed into fuels…but we are resilient and have the capacity to recognize we make mistakes. Preventing a fire like this requires continued thinning on the landscape and education about how to put out campfires.” -Daniel Laughlin, from InsideNAU

"If economics and human selfishness continue to trump the values of the natural world, then the future of humans on Earth will look much like the blackened forest of Flagstaff, Arizona." -Paul Torrence, from his OpEdNews piece "Igniting the Southwest"

January 2010

January 22, 2010:  Almost 54 inches of snow.

One of the worst winter storms Flagstaff has witnessed since 1967.  I so wanted the sun and warmth during this time and now, today, all I wish for is a little of that white stuff to return.

Six Months Later
June 2010

June 20, 2010

Lesson 3 (Lessons 1 & 2 are below, but follow along):  The 2010 Schultz Fire.  Cost:  $9 million and counting.  Looking up at the San Francisco Peaks from the once threatened/evacuated sub-divisons below.

The Waterline Trail (once one of Flag's most popular trails) can be seen as a faint line that crosses the slopes.  Rumors are that this trail is gone for good.  Burned, eroded, and littered with downed trees and debris.

A mountainside gone!  As are 15,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat, wilderness character, miles of hiking, biking and running trails, and a community's water supply.  What remains, however, is what elicits even more sorrow:  A mountainside ready to collapse onto subdivisions below during the next monsoon, millions of dollars of mitigation funding, and a legacy of mismanagement and human selfishness.

Only moist patches of aspen held their ground as the fire rolled through and around.  Let's hope these guys are aggressive and establish themselves quickly on slopes barren of ground cover.

The Schultz Fire caught at night.

Clearly Not Learning the Lesson nor Getting the Message...

Lesson One:  The 1977 Radio Fire (as seen today) on Mount Elden still remains visible for all to see.  Eerily located not two miles from the Schultz Fire perimeter.  Visible from Flagstaff, but clearly not big enough or young enough to evoke the emotions of care or worry.

The Radio Fire burned 5,000 acres 33 years ago.  As you can see, the scar remains and a mountain was changed forever.  The 2010 Schultz Fire was three times larger.

Lesson 2:  The Hochderffer/Horseshoe Fire Complex.  What remains today after this 1996 fire.

The Hochderffer/Horseshoe Fire Complex charred 25,000 acres.  Located and well hidden on the backside of The Peaks, only miles from where the Shultz Fire was stopped.  Now that we've scarred our front-side and can see it every-time we awake in the morning, hopefully we'll come to terms and talk about this issue.  Please, I for one, do not wish to witness/experience Lesson 4.

Here are two points-of-view that bring to light the circumstance and discuss its finality:

From Northern Arizona University and the Ecological Restoration Institute:

From my father and former Flagstaff resident, Paul Torrence, a rather raw and engaging piece:

Sorry folks, no Moment of Zen can be found here today...
This is all there is left to say...


zagbag said...

Dang...the only hope I feel is b/c people like you care enough to spread the message and fight for pro-action. Dang...

Derrick Davidson said...


Caleb said...

I've lived in Flagstaff for a little over 5 years now. I'm not sure I could ever be taken away from this place. These photos and videos brought tears to my eyes. We have an amazing home... lets hope we don't screw things up.

Jess Miller said...

Egad. I got a lump in my throat. So very sad. I know it is so difficult! Tragic truths. We all know that no amount of rain could ever put out this fire.

Lorax said...

Good Piece, Ian. Have you got a pic of the Little Bear area or a shot from where we used to live?

The Hopi Tribe is calling for some enlightened thinking also - " This and past fires in the vicinity need to be viewed as a starting point for the Forest Service to develop and impose more stringent rules on campers and users of the forest. The Schultz Fire is of great concern to the Hopi people due to the religious significance of the Peaks and the many cultural sites in the area."(quote from Herman Honanie, Vice Chairman of the Hopi Tribal Council)

Check out http://www.navajohopiobserver.com/main.asp?SectionID=74&SubSectionID=114&ArticleID=12664

Missy B. said...

Wow. So eloquently put by you and your father. Very powerful words about a fire that did not have to happen for so many reasons. Thank you, Ian.

Scott Keeps Running said...

My only connection to Flagstaff was a trip I made there last fall to run the trails up the San Fransisco Peaks. The beauty captured me.

Sad to hear of the fire.

Rennaker said...

Nice sound track to the Shultz fire video. Did you add the tune? You can't fool me Torrence. I know you love that song!

Daniel N. said...

The video was terrifyingly beautiful. Watching the stars move in their paths like that reminds me that stars and trees have a different sense of time than humans. Our power to destroy is instantaneous to them. Perhaps the solution is for us to make our landscape-scale decisions in a tree's time frame.
Thanks for posting this, Ian. Kudos to your dad on his op-ed.