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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Smokey Bear says: "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires"

I took this picture from the town of Fountain Hills at approximately 3 PM on June 13, 2020. The fire had only been burning for an hour or so. This human caused fire (started from a vehicle) would be called the Bush Fire as it originated where the Beeline Highway (SR 87) and the Bush Highway intersect. At the start of the fire, the smoke was blowing directly west. We could smell the smoke at our house, approximately twenty five miles away. The fire would eventually make its way east to Four Peaks, which you can see in the distance and then it would proceed north toward Payson.

The Bush Fire would eventually burn 193,455acres (78289 hectares), making it the fifth largest fire in Arizona history.

When you think of forests, you usually think of trees but in certain areas of Arizona we are talking about forests of cacti.

On July 1, 2020 the fire was 98 percent contained. However, interior burning activity and smoke may be present until the fire area receives widespread moisture from monsoons.

When I think of fires and fire prevention, I think about Smokey Bear.

History on Smokey Bear and wildfire prevention.

"Created in 1944, the Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign is the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history, educating generations of Americans about their role in preventing wildfires. As one of the world's most recognizable characters, Smokey's image is protected by U.S. federal law and is administered by the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council. Despite the campaign's success over the years, wildfire prevention remains one of the most critical issues affecting our country. Smokey's message is as relevant and urgent today as it was in 1944.

Smokey’s original catchphrase was "Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires." In 1947, it became "Remember... Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires." In 2001, it was again updated to its current version of "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires" in response to a massive outbreak of wildfires in natural areas other than forests and to clarify that Smokey is promoting the prevention of unwanted and unplanned outdoor fires versus prescribed fires."

Do you know how Smokey Bear became associated with wildfire prevention?

"The answer begins with World War II. On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. The following spring, Japanese submarines surfaced near the coast of Santa Barbara, California, and fired shells that exploded on an oil field, very close to the Los Padres National Forest. Americans were shocked that the war had come directly to the American mainland. Fear grew that more attacks would bring a disastrous loss of life and destruction of property. There was also a fear that incendiary shells exploding in the forests of the Pacific Coast would ignite numerous raging wildfires.

With experienced firefighters and other able-bodied men deployed in the war, communities had to deal with wildfires as best they could. Protection of forests became a matter of national importance, and a new idea was born. If people could be urged to be more careful, perhaps some of the fires could be prevented. To rally Americans to this cause, and convince them that it would help win the war, the Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) program with the help of the War Advertising Council and the Association of State Foresters. Together, they created posters and slogans, including "Forest Fires Aid the Enemy," and "Our Carelessness, Their Secret Weapon."

In a stroke of luck for the cause, in 1942, forests and their animal inhabitants were celebrated in Walt Disney's wildly popular motion picture, "Bambi." Disney allowed the CFFP program to use the film’s characters on a 1944 poster. The "Bambi" poster was a success and proved the success of using an animal as a fire prevention symbol. However, Disney had only loaned the characters to the campaign for one year. The CFFP would need to find an animal symbol that would belong to them, and nothing seemed more fitting than the majestic, powerful (and also cute) bear.

On August 9, 1944, the creation of Smokey Bear was authorized by the Forest Service, and the first poster was delivered on October 10 by artist Albert Staehle. The poster depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire. Smokey Bear soon became popular, and his image began appearing on more posters and cards. By 1952, Smokey Bear began to attract commercial interest. An Act of Congress passed which removed Smokey from the public domain and placed him under the control of the Secretary of Agriculture. The Act provided for the use of collected royalties and fees for continued wildfire prevention education.

Though he has already accomplished so much, Smokey’s work is far from over. Wildfire prevention remains crucial, and he still needs your help. His catchphrase reflects your responsibility: Only you can prevent wildfires. Remember that this phrase is so much more than just a slogan: it’s an important way to care for the world around you."

Smokey Bear

"One spring day in 1950, in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico, an operator in one of the fire towers spotted smoke and called the location in to the nearest ranger station. The first crew discovered a major wildfire sweeping along the ground between the trees, driven by a strong wind. Word spread rapidly, and more crews reported to help. Forest rangers, local crews from New Mexico and Texas, and the New Mexico State Game Department set out to gain control of the raging wildfire.

As the crew battled to contain the blaze, they received a report of a lone bear cub seen wandering near the fire line. They hoped that the mother bear would return for him. Soon, about 30 of the firefighters were caught directly in the path of the fire storm. They survived by lying face down on a rock slide for over an hour as the fire burned past them.

Nearby, the little cub had not fared as well. He took refuge in a tree that became completely charred, escaping with his life but also badly burned paws and hind legs. The crew removed the cub from the tree, and a rancher among the crew agreed to take him home.

At first Smokey Bear was called Hotfoot Teddy but it was later changed to Smokey Bear. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Ranger Ray Bell heard about the cub and took him to Santa Fe, where he, his wife Ruth, and their children Don and Judy cared for the little bear with the help of local veterinarian Dr Edwin J. Smith.

Judy Bell helped her mother take care of Smokey.

News about the little bear spread swiftly throughout New Mexico. Soon, the United Press and Associated Press broadcast his story nationwide, and many people wrote and called, asking about the cub’s recovery. The state game warden wrote to the chief of the Forest Service, offering to present the cub to the agency as long as the cub would be dedicated to a conservation and wildfire prevention publicity program. The cub was soon on his way to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., becoming the living symbol of Smokey Bear.

According to the New York Times obituary for Homer C. Pickens, then assistant director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, he kept the cub on his property for a while before flying with the bear to D.C. Soon after, Smokey was flown in a Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser airplane to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

A special room was prepared for him at the St. Louis Zoo for an overnight fuel stop during the trip, and when he arrived at the National Zoo, several hundred spectators, including members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, photographers, and media were there to welcome him.

Smokey received numerous gifts of honey, millions of visitors and so many letters (more than 13,000 a week) he had to have his own zip code, 20252. He developed a love for peanut butter sandwiches, in addition to his daily diet of bluefish and trout. He remained at the zoo for 26 years until his death in 1976, when he was returned to his home to be buried at the Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan, New Mexico, where he continues to be a wildfire prevention legend.

In 1952, Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote the popular anthem that would launch a continuous debate about Smokey’s name. To maintain the rhythm of the song, they added “the” between “Smokey” and “Bear.” Due to the song’s popularity, Smokey Bear has been called “Smokey the Bear” by many adoring fans, but, in actuality, his name never changed. He’s still Smokey Bear."

Bush Fire

The Bush Fire required many different resources including 19 hand crews, 41 engines, three bulldozers, 19 water tenders, several large tankers and 8 helicopters for a total of 759 personnel. There were also three other large fires burning in the state at this time.

Photo from the Arizona Republic June 18, 2020

The terrain can be described as steep, rough, and rocky and the fire behavior as “creeping”. Progress of the fire was charted through fixed wing mapping and satellite overflights.

Temperatures were over 100 degrees in the lower elevations with relative humidity in the single digits.

There was no rain. Firefighters had to deal with winds at some times gusting over 30 MPH.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team had managed the fire from the start, but a higher level team, a Type 1 Team came in once 100,000 acres were burned.

Some days 25,000 acres could burn in a 24 hour period.

I enjoy the 1 1/2 hour drive from Scottsdale to Payson. I love to photograph this area especially when snow covers the mountains and in the Spring when the wildflowers and cacti are blooming.

This picture was taken in December. This is the Four Peaks area off in the distance.

This is a picture around the same area following the Bush Fire. Some of the cactus are still green so we hope they will survive. The white you see is the ash from burned creosote bushes. It is not snow.

The creosote bush is an interesting plant. The creosote bush isn't exactly spectacular in appearance but the age it can live to is. Individual creosote bushes can live 150 years and clones stemming from a single root system can live 5,000 years or longer. It is sad to see so many burned bushes from the Bush Fire.

Native Americans used the plant internally as a general tonic (leaf, flower or twig tea —very bitter) to treat many ailments such as coughs, colds, diarrhea, dysentery, stomach problems, toothache, venereal infections, urinary infections, leukemia. External uses as a wash or poultice included wounds, swollen limbs, dandruff, disinfectant, insect bites, sore and aching joints and muscles. Creosote was used as a cure of fever, colds, stomach pains, a general pain killer, diuretic, arthritis, sinusitis and anemia. Creosote bush is also an antimicrobial. Thereby the plant is useful for cuts and bacterial or fungal infections.The plant contains potent antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant and hyperglycemia constituents. Although banned for sale as an herbal remedy for several years, in the early 1990s, testing allowed its return to the market.

Native Americans in the Southwest held beliefs that it treated many maladies, including sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, chicken pox, and snake bite. The Coahuilla Indians used the plant for intestinal complaints and tuberculosis. The Pima drank a decoction of the leaves as an emetic (a substance causing vomiting) and applied the boiled leaves as poultices to wounds or sores. Papago Indians prepared it medicinally for stiff limbs, snake bites, and menstrual cramps.The shrub is still widely used as an herbal medicine in Mexico.

The creosote bush is often referred to as chaparral when used as an herbal remedy and supplement. The United States Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about the health hazards of ingesting chaparral or using it as an internal medicine, and discourages its use.

Creosote bush has a unique set of evolutionary adaptations that allows it to out compete many other plants in its ecosystems, given the right opportunities.

"Rain is rare in the desert, and any plant has to be able to get as much of it as it can while losing as little of it as possible. The problem all plants face is that they must “breathe” in carbon dioxide through openings on the underside of their leaves called stomata, but doing so means they lose water. This becomes a big problem when it is especially hot and dry as it always is during the day in the desert. So the creosote bush only opens its stomata in the mornings when the humidity is relatively high and the loss of water is the lowest.  It is during this time that creosote bush undergoes photosynthesis, and shuts it down when the sun rises higher. This is also why the creosote bush always faces southeast.

Since the plant photosynthesizes only in the mornings when humidity is highest, it needs to maximize the amount of sunlight it receives during that time. Its branches and leaves grow in a shape meant to capture as much morning sunlight as possible. As the sun gets higher and the air drier, it will close its stomata and shut down its photosynthesis. While this may seem like not using the sunlight is wasted potential, it is in fact a smart move since it saves water. And... in the desert it is always water, not sunlight that limits plant growth.

A cone shape allows creosote bush to channel rain down its stems so that the water goes deeper into the soil and the roots have more time to absorb it. It can also grow into a hemisphere, an upside down bowl shape that allows leaf litter and other organic material to collect beneath its branches. This creates an island of fertility that allows other plants and animals to live underneath, creating a rich soil that is full of nutrients for the creosote bush.

On many creosote bushes you will see black areas on some branches. This is a microbial community of algae, fungi, and bacteria that in exchange for a place to live, gives the plant nutrients as rainwater flows over it and into the soil. It is from a combination of  this and dust that has settled on its branches between storms that allows creosote bush to pick up 9 times as much phosphorus and 16 times as much nitrogen than is in regular rainwater. These nutrients are rare in the desert and give the plant a huge leg up over its competition.

Nordihydroguaiaretic acid is a powerful antioxidant that the creosote bush produces for protection. When it was discovered in the 1930s, people would extract it from the plant and use it to keep food from spoiling. This practice ended in the 70s when the FDA discontinued its use in food, but recent research on the chemical has found some promise in its ability to reduce cancerous tumors in animals.

The smell of creosote after a good rain is the result of many volatile oils, but mostly terpene (a compound found in pines), limonene (citrus), camphor (pines and rosemary), methanol (wood alcohol), and 2-undecanone (spices). 

The creosote bush thrives in the desert. It is so good at making efficient use of its limited resources that it will slowly overtake ecosystems like grasslands and turn them into creosote shrubland. Creosote has one weakness though, fire. Creosote bush grows slowly, and if grassland that it grows in catches fire when it is still small, it will die off while the grass grows back. Because of this, creosote bush’s natural habitat is in areas where grass has a difficult time growing. But practices like fire suppression, or overgrazing that limits how much fuel there is for fire, allows the creosote bush to take over."

Creosote shrubs have deep root systems that are capable of accessing soil water that more shallowly rooted plants can not. This brings them into competition with neighboring plants in intriguing ways. The branching architecture of creosote is such that it tends to accumulate debris as winds blow dust around the desert landscape. As a result, the soils directly beneath creosote often contain elevated nutrients. This coupled with the added shade of the creosote canopy means that seedlings that find themselves under creosote bushes tend to do better than seedlings that germinated elsewhere. Therefore, creosote are considered nurse plants that actually facilitate the growth and survival of surrounding vegetation.

If you look at the base of a large creosote and you will often find the ground littered with burrows. Many mammals find the rooting zone of the creosote shrub to be a good place to dig a den. When these animals burrow under shallowly rooted desert plants, many of them nibble on and disturb the rooting zones. Over the long-term, this can be extremely detrimental for the survival of shallow rooted species. This is not the case for creosote. Its roots run so deep that most burrowing animals don't reach them. The creosote avoids most of the damage that other plants experience. This lends to a slight survival advantage for creosote at the expense of neighboring vegetation. In this way, rodents and other burrowing animals may actually help reduce competition for the creosote.

Creosote bushes provide shade and shelter for many desert annual plants, particularly Phacelia species. The roots also hold mounds of dirt and allow burrowing animals to dig safe holes under them, especially Kangaroo Rats and Antelope Ground Squirrels. Resident birds like California Quail, Roadrunners Verdins, Say’s Phoebe’s and migrating birds like Warblers use them as perches, to glean food from, and as shade and protection.

I was able to stop and take some pictures across the road from the turn off to Four Peaks.

Some prickly pear cactus survived.

The red fruit of prickly pears, commonly called cactus fruit, cactus fig, Indian fig, or tuna in Spanish, is edible, although it must be peeled carefully to remove the small spines on the outer skin before consumption. If the outer layer is not properly removed, glochids ( hair-like spines or short prickles, generally barbed, found on the areoles of cacti) can be ingested, causing discomfort of the throat, lips, and tongue, as the small spines are easily lodged in the skin. If you want to eat the fruits whole, roast them over a gas flame to burn off the spines. Then peel and eat, or slice in half and scoop out the seeds before eating. Here are some other uses for prickly pear: jam or jelly; syrup for pancakes, pink lemonade; margaritas or mimosa; chutney; BBQ sauce and even vinegar.

Notice some green at the top of the saguaro

It is easy to see the burned section. The spines of cacti are actually modified leaves.  It helps to imagine cacti as large stems with spines for leaves. One of the main functions of spines is fairly obvious – they protect cacti from predators.  Their sharp spines will turn away most animals, but not all.  Javelina (wild pigs), pack rats, desert tortoises and bighorn sheep aren’t put off by the prickly spines and cacti are part of their diets. A surprising function of cacti spines is to provide shade for the cactus itself.  At first, it can be hard to believe that tiny cactus spines offer any real protection from the intense desert sun.  When you consider that each spine provides a small amount of shade and then multiply that by a 1,000 or more per cactus, it makes it easier to believe that the spines help to protect the surface of cacti.

Complete devastation! The desert will eventually come back. This area will probably take decades to recover, though.

We stopped at another area so I could take some pictures at the beginning of the Great Western Trail.

This 45 miles X 20 miles (72Kilometers X 32 kilometers)

I think it is absolutely amazing the fire was stopped at the highway and did not cross the road.

Firefighters helped tie in the fire with the highway by burning out, a tactic intended to remove the fuel ahead of the main fire in order to check its spread, preventing it from crossing the road.

The average saguaro has about five arms and is about 30 feet tall. According to the National Park Service, the tallest saguaro that we know about was 78 feet tall. That saguaro cactus was probably well over 200 years old.

The tallest saguaros are about 200 years old. They have more than 50 arms. Saguaros can grow to over 50 feet tall, too.

Burned out desert as far as the eye can see.

This is not a mountain of dirt or rock. This mountain is burned all the way to the top.

Some interesting facts about the saguaro:

  1. Saguaro is an Indian word.The correct pronunciation is "sah-wah-ro" or "suh-wah-ro." The saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea ) was named for philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  

  2. Sometimes the name is spelled saguaro or you may see an alternate spelling: sahuaro. Sahuaro is not the official spelling.

  3. The saguaro cactus can only be found in the Sonoran Desert.  

  4. Saguaros grow very slowly. A young cactus may only grow 1 to 1.5 inches in its first eight years, while an adult saguaro can reach 60 feet in height. The amount of available water impacts their growth.

  5. Saguaros that grow at high altitudes tend to congregate on warm, south-facing slopes. Low temperatures and frost can kill a saguaro, so they are not usually found above 4,000 feet.  

  6. The outside skin of the saguaro is smooth. Inside the full-grown saguaro there are two-inch spines, giving the saguaro the pleated effect that you see from the outside. Saguaros have pleats that allow them to expand when they drink water (like an accordion) and contract as they use up their water supply. The number of woody ribs inside the saguaro corresponds to the number of pleats it has on the outside.

  7. Saguaros get very heavy when they are fully hydrated. Some adult saguaros can weigh more than 4 tons.

  8. A saguaro starts to flower around 35 years and produces its first arm around 50 years of age. At 125 years, a saguaro is generally considered an adult. The lifespan of the saguaro is 150 to 200 years.  

  9. Although rare, the cells of saguaro cacti will sometimes mutate to form fan-shaped crests in convoluted patterns. Crests are generally found at the top of the main stem.  

10. A saguaro's arms usually begin to grow only after it is about 15 feet tall and around 75 years old. Despite what some may say, there is no limit to the number of arms a Saguaro can grow.

A saguaro with many holes in it has been visited by the Gila Woodpecker. The bird will drill several holes to get to the water stored inside. The saguaro seals off the hole with scar tissue to prevent water loss.

The burned area is off limits to all activities now. That includes hiking, horseback riding, motor vehicles, etc.

The ecosystem is very fragile and because of this the National Forest Service has posted signs along the road that prohibit you from entering the area and/or stopping along the road.

Dust devils

A dust devil is a whirlwind of air into which dust and debris gets caught up, making it visible.

Dust devils form through a different mechanism than tornadoes, and are much smaller, usually only 10 to 50 feet in diameter, and usually not extending more than 100 feet into the air. They usually are seen during relatively dry conditions, when sunlight is providing strong heating of the surface, and when winds are generally light.

The heated land surface produces convective rolls of air since the wind is a little stronger at (say) 100 feet in altitude than near the ground. If these rolls get tilted upright, then a dust devil can form.

The following pictures were taken from the car as we were not allowed to stop along this area.

It was about this time on our drive when Michael and I started to discuss the impact on wildlife and water sources.

I learned the fire footprint includes designated critical habitat for two imperiled species, the Mexican spotted owl and the northern goshawk.

I found a fascinating article written by Erin Stone whom covers the environment for The Arizona Republic and discussed the impact on wildlife and water sources.

“As Bush Fire becomes one of the largest in Arizona history, water and wildlife at risk

Erin Stone Arizona Republic June 20, 2020

Amy Burnett, a spokesperson for Arizona Game and Fish Department, which is working with the US Forest Service to monitor the fire’s impact on wildlife, had this to say. “Unfortunately this fire is burning in an area with really steep terrain and that sometimes means that animals are boxed in by the canyons and not able to flee.”

The blaze has scorched the domain of mammals such as black bears, mule deer, white-tailed deer, javelina, bighorn sheep and some elk habitat. A silver lining is that the fire has burned in a “mosaic pattern,” Burnett said, which means flames jumped over some fragments of land in the center of the fire, which could allow animals that were unable to flee to wait out the danger."

“Large mammals that live in the desert, especially bighorn sheep for example, are pretty resilient and they’re used to traveling in this steep terrain. When they smell smoke, they get out of the way and travel,” Burnett said. “I think a lot of people think of the Bambi scene where animals are literally running from flames 10 feet away. They’re definitely on the move before the flames put them into danger. A lot of these animals will be able to get out of the way.”

For amphibians and reptiles, which are vital to their ecosystems, the outlook is more grim. Species like the Sonoran desert tortoise can’t flee the fast-moving fire. State agencies won’t know the severity of the impact on the threatened species until after the flames have died down, Burnett said. The Sonoran desert tortoise is designated a “species of greatest conservation need” by the state of Arizona.

Other reptiles, amphibians and small mammals can attempt to seek safety underground, which is likely what the diverse populations of snakes, lizards and other small creatures who call the Tonto home will do.

“The good news is that since the monsoon hasn’t started yet, the toads that normally go above ground during the monsoon, like the spadefoot toad, the Sonoran desert toad, and red spotted toads, they haven’t come above ground yet,” Burnett said. “So depending on the severity of the soil burn, they could be okay.”

Not only has the fire displaced humans, but wildlife have also been displaced from their long-time homes. As animals set out to find new residences, they may increasingly enter urban and suburban spaces, and cross roadways and highways they don’t usually cross.

“What that means for people is there are going to be animals crossing roads more than they would be before the fire,” Burnett said. “We may see more roadkill. So I’d encourage people to be very vigilant when they’re driving, especially at night.”

Some animals may need to traverse the Valley to reach new territories and water resources, which means they could find themselves in Phoenix area neighborhoods, Burnett said.

“This is when people really need to be aware and keep their distance, especially from black bears that could come into an urban setting,” Burnett said. “If people do see a bear in a neighborhood like Mesa, you should call Game and Fish so we can assess and relocate.”

Many of the animals will return to their original homes when the flames die down.

One of the biggest consequences of such a large fire is habitat loss. For example, the Mexican spotted owl relies on mixed-conifer forests to live. One of the largest owls in North America, the spotted owl has long been a flagship species for environmentalists and one of the most famous residents of old-growth forests in the Southwest. The species' numbers are declining as they continue to lose habitat to logging, development, mining, and wildfire.

While some forest areas burned by the Bush Fire could take only one to three years to recover, others could take decades to recover, said Burnett.

As crews get closer to full containment, the Forest Service is preparing to send out its Burn Area Emergency Response Team, or BAER team, said agency spokesperson Dee Hines. The Game and Fish Department will also assist with this effort.

After the ground cools, a team of hydrology and biology experts will assess the burn area. With monsoon approaching, their priority will be to develop a plan that addresses erosion.

“Our wildfires tend to come right before the monsoon and this one is no exception,” Burnett said. “If we all of a sudden got monsoon rains now, we haven’t had time to prevent all of that ash and debris from flowing all the way down into our watershed. Lakes and streams would get all of this and that has severe consequences for not only people and recreationists, but also fish and the species that rely on the lakes and streams. Too much ash and debris can really upset the balance in our waterways.”

One of the biggest consequences of such a large fire is habitat loss. For example, the Mexican spotted owl relies on mixed-conifer forests to live. One of the largest owls in North America, the spotted owl has long been a flagship species for environmentalists and one of the most famous residents of old-growth forests in the Southwest. The species' numbers are declining as they continue to lose habitat to logging, development, mining, and wildfire.

While some forest areas burned by the Bush Fire could take only one to three years to recover, others could take decades to recover, said Burnett.

As crews get closer to full containment, the Forest Service is preparing to send out its Burn Area Emergency Response Team, or BAER team, said agency spokesperson Dee Hines. The Game and Fish Department will also assist with this effort.

After the ground cools, a team of hydrology and biology experts will assess the burn area. With monsoon approaching, their priority will be to develop a plan that addresses erosion.

"It's definitely something we're concerned about," Gill said. "Luckily, a lot of the watershed in the Four Peaks area are dry washes and don’t have enough flow to support fish. We do have the Gila top-minnow, but that population is replicated elsewhere, so we could easily restock if they are impacted."

The Tonto National Forest encompasses some of the main water sources for Phoenix residents. One of the largest perennial streams in Arizona, the Verde River, runs through the Tonto and is a major tributary of the Salt River.

The Salt River Project brings water by canal from the Salt and Verde rivers. Dams and reservoirs along these rivers provide a substantial amount of water to the greater Phoenix area and the communities and farms upstream.

The water supplier and utility company said it's possible that ash and debris flows during the monsoon could contaminate the water supply, but unlikely.

"Fortunately Roosevelt Lake is the most upstream reservoir and is nearly full so there is a lot of volume to provide for diluting the ash and debris that flow into the reservoir," said Charlie Ester, SRP's surface water resources manager. "The Phoenix area water supply from Roosevelt Lake should not be significantly impacted."

The biggest worry is that intense summer monsoon rains will cause flash flooding and result in ash and sediment flowing into Saguaro Lake and then the Verde River below Bartlett Lake. This could result in ashy, muddy water being delivered through the SRP system. SRP then delivers the raw water to Valley cities that then treat the water to drinking water standards. As yet, there has not been any impact to the water quality from ongoing fires, Ester said.

The utility will work with the BAER team to install cameras and gauges to monitor runoff and take water quality samples.

"SRP will be coordinating with Valley cities and the Central Arizona Project to initiate the use of alternate supplies/exchanges when short-term spikes in water quality exceed threshold levels set by the cities," Ester wrote in an email to The Republic.

Climate change is yet another fire catalyst. As monsoon storms come later in the year, there are longer stretches without rain, which means dryer vegetation.

“The longer you have without rain, the more chances of wildfire happening because you’ve got really crispy vegetation,” Burnett of the Game and Fish Department said. “It’s kindling essentially, and it’s just waiting for a spark. The higher temperatures get with no rain, the more chances for wildfires and obviously Mother Nature isn’t helping us out with the rain to put out fires, so it’s a lot harder for us to handle.”

Concerned about wildlife impacted by the fires?

DO call Arizona Game and Fish Department if you see an unexpected visitor to your neighborhood. Keep your distance and bring pets and children inside. Call 602 942-3000 and follow the prompts to the emergency dispatch line.

DON’T leave large amounts of water out for fleeing animals. While it’s okay to leave a pan of water for animals already existing in urban spaces, like your local bobcat or coyote, “you don’t want to encourage wildlife to hang out in a neighborhood,” said Game and Fish spokesperson Amy Burnett. “You want wildlife to pass through neighborhoods.”

DO adhere to no burning/no campfire orders when camping. “They’re put out there for good reason because it’s so volatile during this time of year,” Burnett said.

DO keep an eye out for animals crossing roadways as they seek new territories. Drive slowly, especially at night."

There are many high tension wires along the highway.

The supports for the guardrails are made of wood.

Many of the supports burned. The heat also caused the metal rails to warp.

The firefighters must have been fighting fire with fire, removing fuel ahead of the blaze by firing out to keep it from crossing highways and destroying structures.

These people were extremely lucky to have their home not catch fire!!!

One side of the road is burned and the other is not. I find this quite amazing.

Now, the desert tries to recover.

"There are three phases of recovery following wildfires on federal lands: -       Fire Suppression Repair -       Emergency Stabilization-Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) -       Long-Term Recovery and Restoration

  Fire Suppression Repair is a series of immediate post-fire actions taken to repair damages and minimize potential soil erosion and impacts resulting from fire suppression activities and usually begins before the fire is contained, and before the demobilization of an Incident Management Team. This work repairs the hand and dozer fire lines, roads, trails, staging areas, safety zones, and drop points used during fire suppression efforts.

Emergency Stabilization-Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) is a rapid assessment of burned watersheds by a BAER team to identify imminent post-wildfire threats to human life and safety, property, and critical natural or cultural resources on National Forest System lands and take immediate actions to implement emergency stabilization measures before the first post-fire damaging events. Fires result in loss of vegetation, exposure of soil to erosion, and increased water runoff that may lead to flooding, increased sediment, debris flows, and damage to critical natural and cultural resources. BAER actions such as: mulching, seeding, installation of erosion and water run-off control structures, temporary barriers to protect recovering areas, and installation of warning signs may be implemented. BAER work may also replace safety related facilities; remove safety hazards; prevent permanent loss of habitat for threatened and endangered species; prevent the spread of noxious weeds, and protect critical cultural resources.

Long-Term Recovery and Restoration utilizes non-emergency actions to improve fire-damaged lands that are unlikely to recover naturally and to repair or replace facilities damaged by the fire that are not critical to life and safety. This phase may include restoring burned habitat, reforestation, other planting or seeding, monitoring fire effects, replacing burned fences, interpreting cultural sites, treating noxious weed infestations, and installing interpretive signs.

A wildfire can occur anywhere and at any time.

  • Be prepared for a wildfire before it strikes by following Ready, Set, Go

  • Be Ready: Create and maintain defensible space and harden your home against flying embers.

  • Get Set: Prepare your family and home ahead of time for the possibility of having to evacuate. Ensure you have a plan of what to take and where to go – evacuation plans will be different this year due to COVID-19. Ask friends or relatives outside your area if you would be able to stay with them, should the need arise. If you do need to evacuate and plan to stay with friends or relatives, ask first if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have people in their home at higher risk for serious illness. If that is the case, make other arrangements. Check with hotels, motels and campgrounds to learn if they are open.

  • Also get set by learning about your community’s response plan for each disaster and determine if these plans have been adapted because of COVID-19.

  • Be Ready to GO!: When wildfire strikes, go early for your safety. Take the evacuation steps necessary to give your family and home the best chance of surviving a wildfire.

Smokey Bear wants us all to pledge to:

be careful anytime I use fire or items that can cause sparks.

never leave my fire unattended.

drown, stir, drown again and feel it’s cool with the back of my hand when I put out my fire.

NOT use fire or operate equipment when it’s windy, dry or hot.

make sure there are at least 15 feet between my fire and flammable things.

always have a water source nearby.

put out and discard smoking materials properly.

NOT dump hot ashes from my BBQ grill or firepit.

I want to continue photographing and enjoying the magnificent saguaro cacti!!!

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