Jeff and I were driving from Jerome to Cottonwood when the Flagstaff Schultz fire got started last month. Initially, we saw a little bit of smoke over the rim.
Within a half-hour, that smoke had grown into a huge column of smoke. From that we could tell that the fire had really exploded. Apparently, the fire was caused by a hiker abandoning their campfire without putting it out thoroughly.
Most people think that Arizona is all desert. In actuality, much of Northern and Eastern Arizona is wooded. It has a very active lumber industry.
Fire is a natural cycle in these woods, but normally it’s mainly on the floor of the forests. In this case, fire actually burns off brush and improves the health of the trees. Gigantic forest fires, like the one in Flagstaff, burn the trees and leaves scorched stumps.
A week after the fire began, we drove up to Flagstaff to view the extent of the damage and see how firefighting efforts were going.
It looked like the entire side of one of the mountains was smoldering. It’s heart-rending. It’ll take decades, if not a century or more for the forest to recover.