The Fiery Demon That Stalks Us All


The ominous column of smoke rising to the south has underscored the single greatest threat to the communities we love so dearly — wildfires.

Mercifully, the Sunflower Fire burned into steep canyons and wilderness, moving away from the little community of Sunflower. However, another wildfire that started this weekend and made a run on Prescott forced the evacuation of 300 homes.

Used to be, the scary part of the fire season didn’t start until June when the spring rains had ended and rising temperatures had dried out the fuels. Each year we ran the gauntlet through June until the monsoons started in July. As a result, the monster fires like the Dude and the Rodeo-Chediski all flared in June.

But for the last several years, spring rains have mostly skipped us, doubling the window of greatest danger.

Several climate models have predicted drier springs as a result of the ongoing warming of the planet.

Some truly frightening models suggest that if the warming trend continues as expected for another few decades, our life-saving monsoon rains could dry up as well.

Communities like Bonita Creek understand the danger, as evidenced by our front-page story. Some 22 years ago, six firefighters working to protect that community from the Dude Fire got caught in the catastrophic collapse of a furious plume of superheated air. The collapse of the plume blasted flames outward in every direction on hurricane force winds. The collapse of that plume came as a result of the intensity of that raging crown fire. Before the Dude Fire, such fire behavior was virtually unknown. Since then, it has grown increasingly common, due to the enormous loads of fuel now choking millions of acres.

Clearly, we must take a lesson from Bonita Creek — and from Greer, Alpine and other White Mountain towns saved from the Wallow Fire last summer by the smallest of margins and a thinned buffer zone on the edge of town.

We must go much further to protect all we love and everything we’ve worked for. We must insist that the county and the towns adopt tough firewise building codes that insist on fire resistant roofs, cleared zones around houses, the elimination of overhanging wooden eves and highly flammable building materials.

We must make sure that the Forest Service has the community support it needs to educate the visitors on which we depend concerning the dangers that face us all from the careless use of fire.

We must also insist that our elected representatives make it their top priority to restore the forests to a healthy balance and fire to its natural cycle. The history-making 4-Forests Restoration Initiative remains the key to any long-term solution, but already that massive thinning project has fallen frighteningly behind schedule.

So watch the smoke — and learn its lessons now, this moment, before our luck runs out.

It’s not whether you win or lose ...

We have champions among us. And we’re awfully proud. Granted, the Lady Longhorns softball team on Friday fought hard but finally fell to the team that went on to win the state championship.

Further granted, our plucky golf team came in second in the state tournament in Prescott.


Lady Longhorn leadoff hitter Devann Runzo fouls off a pitch in Payson’s disheartening 7-2 state tournament quarterfinal loss to Bourgade Catholic. With the loss, the Lady Horns wrapped up the season 29-3.

That don’t matter.

They didn’t lose by much: A few strokes, a few strikeouts, a bobbled ball more or less. The last few innings aren’t the measure of a season.

The Lady Longhorns proved they’re champions by the grace and persistence of their play — and their astonishing rally at the last possible moment in one of the greatest playoff games of all time.

And the Longhorn golfers proved they’re champions when they rallied from a bad round and came within about six strokes of one of the great comebacks in state golf playoff history.

So don’t worry, kids — we couldn’t be more proud if you’d shaved the last few strokes and capped your season with a few more runs.

Thanks for lifting our hearts, giving us a chance to shout ourselves hoarse and proving that we’re a town full of champions.


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