Smoke in the Air

It appeared on the northern horizon, a glimpse of brown, grey-brown, and dirty white that smeared across the pale blue northern sky from northwest to just east of north, quick glimpsed between the trees as I drove on an errand Saturday.  Everyone knew it had the potential to be one of those days, and alas, it lived down to our expectations and fears. Half an hour later, smoke covered the entire northern horizon, hiding the precise location of origin. Anything north of town’s not great because it is such rough, broken terrain, with little pockets and lots of subdivisions and little clusters of fancy houses built for scenery and not for ease of access during wild-land fires.

Like this. This was near Borger last year. From:

Like this. This was near Borger last year. From:

By 1600 a fire warning had been posted and two main roads closed because the smoke reduced visibility to zero.

And to keep gawkers out from under foot. I just don’t understand why people want to go watch a grass or brushfire, especially when the wind drives them so fast that they can outrun cars (as 5 people found out in 2006, G-d rest their souls. They were fire fighters). The fire started beside a major road, and I suspect something like hot brakes, or a tossed ciggy-butt, or exhaust pipe started it. I could be wrong. All it took was a spark, because we have lots and lots of well-cured grass just waiting for something to set it alight.

By 1900, even though southerly winds continued, I could smell the smoke in town. It had a bit of the grass scent, but thicker and darker, for lack of a better word, probably from the mesquite and other brush burning. By Sunday morning it was under control and only 1500 acres or so had been scorched. Several ranches and the national park service (lake Meredith) have been running controlled burns for this very reason, and right now we also have TX Forest Service water bombers up here, in case of this very thing. The yucca stubs will smoulder for days if not checked and quenched. Usually they’re just ignored, but this time they probably got drenched into submission.

I fear it is going to be a long fire season. In 2006 we lost over a million acres and a dozen human lives, plus thousands of cattle and horses. I don’t want another one of those years, please.

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