Phoenix from the Flames

The northern half of Arizona is not a place you want to be at the moment, as large chunks of it have been reduced to a pile of smouldering ashes. To be specific, as of this morning’s scorecard in the (slightly singed at the metaphorical edges) newspaper, an area about the size of Los Angeles is ablaze, 32,000 people have had to leave their homes, and none of it is being contained. You could even see the smoke from downtown Phoenix – not because it was particularly close (despite the note from a British friend, solicitous of our wellbeing, unaware that Arizona is bigger than the entire UK!), just because there was so much of it.

No-one is really too surprised, given the extreme drought conditions in the state this year. Here in Phoenix, we’ve had no rain at all in almost two months, and less than 0.2″ for the year so far. I appreciate that to wet, cold British people (Wimbledon’s on – by logical inference, it must be raining) this would seem like paradise, and indeed it is nice to have reliable weather, where barbecues are no longer a lottery. It does have drawbacks though, such as having to take the car to get washed, rather than relying on a good downpour of acid rain to do the job.

Anyway, the equation goes something like:
           Drought + Timber + Psychopathic Forest Ranger + Conservationists = Inferno.
Some of this may require explanation. One of the biggest fires this year, in the next door state of Colorado, was allegedly started by the forest ranger who claimed to have discovered it. She was apparently burning a letter from her ex-husband. She didn’t do this in the sink, like any sensible person. She did it in a forest. In the middle of summer. Why do I sense there may be more to this story?

As for the environmentalists, accusations have been flying, right the way up to the Governor who suggested, more or less, that if the Forest Service had been allowed to clear out some of these damn trees without hippies setting up home in their branches and holding hands round the trunks, we wouldn’t get such conflagrations. And where’s your goddamn spotted owl now, tree-huggers?

It also gives us another reason to be glad we live in civilization, having recently been toying with idea of buying some land up North, in order to escape the 45C heat. Needless to say, that idea has gone onto the, er, back burner. As indeed probably has the land itself. We appreciate the joys of urban life, such as a working fire service, instead of having to rely on water dropped from a safe height by a passing helicopter.

Besides, any fire here in Phoenix would only get about 100 yards or so, before coming across a fire break cunningly disguised as a car-park. These have approximately one tree per square mile – with four cars clustered around it like camels at an oasis, all looking for the tiniest piece of shade. Still, compared to what’s happening elsewhere in the state, I think we should chalk up yet another reason to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.