It’s fire season here in Arizona. There are multiple fires burning across the state, exacerbated by drought conditions that blanket the entire state and, in fact, the entire American Southwest. Yes, deserts are dry places, but most deserts get at least some rain, and this desert is dangerously dry.
There’s a big fire to the north of us, which is causing the smoke that seems to be catching fire from the rising sun in the photo above (taken during a recent morning walk). Fortunately for us, the prevailing winds generally carry the smoke east rather than south, so I can still take my walks. But my friends and family in New Mexico are suffering mightily from the smoke, as well as their own set of wildfires—including one in the Gila National Forest, near where I used to live (and watch for fires) in Silver City.
Fire season has become a part of life in the Western US. Each year, it seems the season grows longer. As our world heats up, we become accustomed to a “new normal” in many areas of our lives. It’s no longer a question of whether there will be fires each year, but rather how many and how long. The sustained fire season is changing the landscape too, as trees don’t have time to grow back before the next round of fires, leading forested areas to transition to grasslands, which burn more easily and hotter. It’s a vicious cycle.
As a species, we’ve set these cycles in motion. We have reshaped the landscape, frequently beyond repair. Thousands of species are dying off and others are migrating, where possible, to lands that are more habitable for them. Of course, some of us are doing the same. Others hunker down, presuming they can battle the wildfires and keep themselves and their homes safe. Sometimes that is true; other times, the fires just burn too hot.
I don’t have answers here, but I am hoping to raise awareness. Is there a fire season where you live? What can you learn about it? What can you do, locally, to support the flora and fauna struggling to adapt to a changing environment?