Charles Dickens in his novels of Victorian England used to speak of thick, foul miasma of air that stung the nose and burned the eyes.
We had that here yesterday as an inversion layer crowded the smoke to the earth, grounding the air support helicopters and spotter planes.
I attended a community meeting in Sedona that seemed to be a platform for showcasing the dozens of support agencies working to control the fire.
The nasty little secret they don’t tell you is that to ‘control the fire’ they actually burn more. I was surprised to hear that the fire which had consumed Oak Creek Canyon would now be deliberately increased to three times its original size by firefighting units to create a buffer of safety.
What they mean by this is that the priority is to save people and structures, period. The pristine slot canyon that was West Fork is no more. What wasn’t burned by the original flash fire is now being systematically bombed with napalm-like fire starters to burn out the little that is left.
On the canyon floor, fire rings has been set around all of the structures, to ‘pull down’ the fire from the slopes of the canyon to the floor to save the buildings. What this means is that there will be a narrow fringe of green around the buildings, surrounded by char.
Who would want to live in such a place? Who would want to visit it?
Perhaps my initial shock and disbelief has now turned to the anger stage of mourning. I hold two images in my mind: one of the canyon that I knew and loved in all its serene beauty, and the other, the blackened destruction created by the firefighters who actually at this stage are fire starters. It is difficult to find gratitude for that.
The road through the canyon will not be open for a number of weeks, if then.
I do not know when I will be able return, or even if I want to.
I want to keep the memories I have.