Up In Smoke

On Saturday night the air was cool and crisp for the first time in months. I fell asleep to the sound of wind and  murmurs of livestock rather than the whir of a fan. When darkness settles on the desert it blankets the landscape in a peaceful solitude I cannot explain. Around 3 a.m. a large pack of coyotes that migrates through the area broke the silence with their shrill howls and yips. It’s a sign that fall is on its way and summer is drawing to a close.

This was the summer of fire for my part of the world. I saw sepia skies and ran through raining ash. We regularly lost power until PG&E allowed our local utility district to switch completely over a small local geothermal and biomass energy plant. Everything smelled like campfires for over a month. This left me with an insatiable craving for s’mores that I couldn’t indulge because open flame is prohibited at this time of year in the desert. I tried to make s’more cookies, but without it’s just not the same without the crunchy, melty, gooey texture.

The beauty of terrible air quality is diffused dirty light. Everything looks like you’re gazing at it from across a dusty attic.

Smoky sunset

A summer sunset blanketed in smoke.

Today, another fire started by the town I work in. It’s not named yet, but the column is already sizable. I hope everybody comes out of it alright.

This smoke column erupted near the town I work in this afternoon. It’s the 4th fire this summer to have a significant affect on our community.

This smoke column erupted near the town I work in this afternoon. It’s the 4th fire this summer to have a significant affect on our community.

Last year was a wet year, and this year is incredibly dry. This means that there is a lot of tall, dry, dead grasses from last year that create a large fine fuel load. Fire prevention is a contentious natural resource management subject. Although historically livestock managers and timber harvesters often abused these resources, I think it’s important to recognize that these industries have (mostly) learned from their mistakes.

The vast herds of mammals that once reduced some fine fuel loads are gone. We suppress fire to protect life and property, but trying to replace the natural fire cycle with logging is the subject of intense debate. I understand why people are concerned, but I think it is important to conduct research from sources that stand on all sides of an issue before forming an opinion. Public land belongs to the people, and it is our privilege and responsibility to ensure that we advocate policies that benefit the ecosystem services we depend on.

This is the view from my front porch in August of one of the largest wildfires in California’s history. The power was out, so the only lights in the valley were from a biomass/geothermal energy plant and passing car headlights.


2 responses to “Up In Smoke

  1. Pingback: Over the moon. | Up & Away·

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