If you don’t live in the western United States, then you have no clue what our wildfires are like out here. Wildfires in the west are caused by lightning, human carelessness, and other causes. Having lived and traveled throughout the western US for more than 36 years, I can say I have definitely seen bits and pieces of many fires, and as of last summer, been extremely close.
I had already moved away from Wyoming when the unrelentless fire of 1988 hit Yellowstone. The more than 250 fires started in mid June and continued throughout the summer, leaving the park closed to everyone except emergency personnel. The fires burned more than 1.2 million acres. It truly is amazing that a great majority of the structures in the park were saved. I remember thinking that the park would never again look like it had, when I had visited it while living in Wyoming. Not so, though! Our family later went snowmobiling in the park during the winter. The new growth trees from after the fire were already 8-10 feet tall. Fires you see, are sometimes necessary to generate new growth in nature.
While living in California, the Oakland Hills fire occurred, as well as many others. Spurred on by the Santa Anna winds, firefighters and home owners just hope for the winds to die down. Observers just watch and count their blessings that their own homes aren’t where the wildfires are. So many summers signal the start of wildfire season in the west. Firefighters have to respond when there are homes involved. They have to respond when we have those huge park fires that are so large and uncontrolled that anything could happen. They don’t always respond though. Sometimes the fire is inaccessible and responding means monitoring to see if it will burn itself out. I remember traveling through Utah on one trip and seeing a fire up on a mountain side as we were driving down the freeway. It appeared to be unattended and was about halfway up the mountain. Since we had seen it on our way up, and we were now on our way back, all I can assume is that maybe they were waiting for it to burn itself out.
Over the years of my living in Las Vegas, we had several fires in California that affected our air quality in the Vegas valley. We even had a couple of other fires up on Mount Charleston. The smoke from these fires would blow over the mountain and sit in the valley until wind would move in and blow the smoke out. During the summer of 2013, the unbelievable Carpenter 1 fire happened. It started on July 1st and was finally fully contained on September 17th. To those of us living here, the Carpenter 1 fire landed us on the national news, provide photo ops for us like never before, looked almost like a volcano spewing ash at times, and scared the residents living up on the mountain. Roads were shut down as the fired burned across them. In the end, firefighters were able to save the homes up on Mount Charleston. Eventually things went back pretty much to normal. Wildfires seem to occur in groups too. I went up to Reno to visit my son during the Carpenter 1 fire. When I got up there, California had a wildfire that was sending smoke into the Reno area. There was also another wildfire southeast of Reno that I could see from the house. You have to understand that I get excited about things in nature.
What we didn’t anticipate in the valley were the longer and farther reaching results of the fire. When the rains came down and the only place for them to go was downhill, they washed out the road on the mountain, ate away at the roads coming down the mountain and tested our infrastructure in town when the waters settled in a low area close to where I live because there was no place for the water to drain. The force of the waters popped a manhole cover down the street like a cork popping out of a popgun. Roads in the flood area were blocked for days in spots, and passible-but a challenge to those of us in higher clearance vehicles who ventured toward intersections-only to turn around and try a different way. The flooding infrastructure has for the most part been fixed, construction continues-but will be done relatively soon. The burned and then flooded road has been repaired, more than once. That area is even more barren than it was before, but it will recover too. Wildfires will continue-just because they do.