Smoke is billowing over the horizon.
Highway 87 could close at any time, cutting off the quickest route from Payson to Phoenix.
The natural reaction would be to hunker down in our homes and ride out the storm.
But that is exactly what we shouldn't be doing.
In times of disaster and crisis, the economy is one of the first victims. Tourism is a major part of our Rim country economy.
Several of the local merchants rely upon business from weekend-getaways from the kids, company retreats in the woods and college co-ed campouts.
The towns of Payson, Pine and Strawberry cannot survive on Valley bread alone.
When the smoke clears, the town undoubtedly will launch a tourism campaign similar to the one after the Rodeo-Chediski fire that said, "Rim country is open for business."
But until then, take matters into your own hands.
Take someone out to dinner.
Get some Christmas shopping out of the way.
Start buying school supplies -- school starts at the end of the month.
Keep your Valley friends in the know: Alert them when they can come up and spend time in town.
Do whatever you can to keep the businesses bustling and spirits up.
When the town is suffering, this is the best option its citizens have -- to continue to support the town as usual.
The Willow Fire could have tragic economic repercussions for the surrounding area -- but only if we let it.
Hundreds of shoppers showed up for the Pine/Strawberry Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday and Sunday.
One even said she knew the smoke was heavy and thick, but she didn't let it bother her.
Hundreds of patriots crowded Green Valley Park to celebrate Independence Day on Sunday. The canceled fireworks and swirling ash didn't impede them at all.
If there is one thing this community can do, it's support our businesses.
Shop local. Buy local.
Rim country is open for business.