So it starts.
Rim Country staggers into the gauntlet for yet another year, with frightening reports of fires erupting on every hand. Already, residents of Sedona have gotten evacuation notices, as the 7,500-acre Slide Fire claws its way up one of the most beautiful canyons in the country. Up on the Rim, people enjoying a lazy day on the shores of Woods Canyon Lake were horrified to see a plume of some rise above the already thirsty trees.
We’re in the chute now — strapped to the back of the bull, waiting for the pull of the gate rope, hoping to hang on for the next eight seconds. But it only underscores the grim truth: We’re already out of time.
Hopefully, we’ll get through June without burning down. Fortunately count on the quick thinking of people like Infinity, 11, who saw a wisp of smoke in a wooded area behind Walmart and ran to tell her mother. As a result, firefighters stopped a disaster. Fortunately, hundreds of firefighters rushed to the front lines of all those fires, never pausing to consider the fate of their brethren who died in the maelstrom of the Yarnell Fire last summer.
But make no mistake: We’ve squandered precious time. We face another season of flame, relying too much on those firefighters because we have not done our part.
The U.S. Forest Service has still not found a contractor who can cut the 30,000 or 50,000 acres a year envisioned by the Four Forests Restoration Initiative — our only realistic hope of avoiding catastrophe in the long run.
Payson still does not have an adequate fire code or a plan to become a Firewise community.
Gila County has not created back door escape routes for communities surrounded by forest, adopted a fire-adapted building code or ensured that the subdivisions it approved will survive the firestorm.
Nor has anyone stepped forward to push for the kind of county-wide district Flagstaff residents created to protect their community. Such a district can raise the money to partner with the Forest Service to undertake the thinning project that will one day save our community — if we only act in time.
So the fire season starts — frightening and implacable. And for yet another year, we have not done what that danger demands.