Monday, May 18, 2020

Up In Smoke

May 18, 2020
   What eight things would you save? That was the question last night when our neighbor, down on the creek, said they were evacuating.

   Earlier in the evening we had dinner with the Aughertons on their patio. We brought our own food, and wine, and sat apart and even wore masks at the appropriate times. At that time the fire was over the ridge and we could only see the smoke.

Smoke on the west side of Cave Creek.

   After dark, we started hearing the sirens coming from all directions and by nine, they were blocking the roads and we could clearly see the flames.

Fire On The Seven Sisters

Kathy and I drove up towards Morningstar and there we saw an alarming sight: the flames were coming down the draw to the creek.

   At this point we knew it was serious. The creek bottom is choked with cheat grass, especially in the bladed areas where crazy, invasive plants have taken hold. I knew that if the fire got down there, it would shoot down our river bottom canyon like a cannonball.

   So we went home and did the drill: what are the eight things you will save if your house is about to be burned to the ground. I always thought I would be partial to all of the paintings in my studio, but no, I looked at them all and found myself saying, "I will paint other paintings." I grabbed a couple days worth of clothes, our mini-fireproof safe with our birth certificates and all that crap, toiletries, medicine and my computer and charger. Oh, the phone charger. What a strange priority, but, I need that charger! After I put those in the Flex, Kathy put a big cardboard box down in front of the closet where our family photos are stored.


   "You're kidding me?" My wife of 40-plus years said, looking at me like she had never really ever known me. Sorry. It's just paper and most of it is online anyway. This was a strange sentiment to hear coming out of my mouth. Now, full disclosure, I did have an inkling that the chances were good that we would be spared, but still, this was an eye opener to me since I consider myself an archivist and my wife considers me a hoarder.

   We woke up this morning and the fire is all but out, although we still have slurry planes flying over and a few hot spots can be seen burning on the hillside across the creek.

   One thing is clear: everything in this life is transitory and so damned fragile.

"Funny how blessings brighten as they take their flight."
—Old Vaquero Saying


  1. Just downstream on Old Stage Road, I witnessed the same thing. The invasive globe chamomile has certainly added to the fuel load. After catastrophes like these, one always asks "Why?!" And then, "Who?"

  2. Why only 8 things? Load up the cars with everything you can, so you're ready to go at a moment's notice. We have a second home in Yarnell, where the 19 firefighters died in 2013. We weren't there at the time of the fire, but 3/4 of our property was burned. Firefighters did save the house, we could see where they had cut brush. Our friends who live there full time had almost zero notice to evacuate, the wind changed direction so quickly. They got out as flames came down their street, but didn't have their wallets or eyeglasses, or any important papers. In the chaos, they could only find 4 of their 6 cats, and didn't have time to pack up their 2 macaws, cockatoo, and cockatiel. Their house didn't burn, but the one next door burned to the ground. Their cockatiel died of smoke inhalation, the rest of the animals lived.


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