Archive for June, 2010

Tail end of the fire

June 29th, 2010 | Category: Arizona

The Schultz fire is now 75% contained.  There is no visible smoke from my location as of today, but two days ago I took these images of the San Francisco peaks as they appeared from about 15 miles away.  The views are beautiful from this road (Lake Mary Road, coming north from Happy Jack).


A variety of schultz fire resources

June 25th, 2010 | Category: Arizona,Uncategorized

Here is a map of the fire at what I believe was its greatest extent, more than 15000 acres.  The fire is not over yet, but the firemen appear to be gaining on it.


Right now the entire region is closed to hikers, but when it’s all over I will make a point of hiking through there and documenting it.

Here is a link to my friend Steve’s blog, where he has posted images and resources as well.

A link to my friend Padraig’s images – some excellent night shots.

Here is a link to the “handlebar sandwich” blog, which has some very early images of the fire, as well as a very creepy time-lapse night sequence.

Of course, the coconino county site has the most authoritative info.

Finally, in my original fire post i mentioned three students that had to flee the fire, abandoning their car (I hope it’s still there when they get to it!).  It turns out that two of the three are summer students at Lowell, where I am working.  Small world!  I am glad they are safe.  Here is a link to some images one of them, Eric, took.

new: Here is an animation of the fire as seen from space.  Here is a cool time-lapse movie of the fire at night, taken from a location right where many people have houses.

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More photos from atop Mt. Humphreys

June 23rd, 2010 | Category: Arizona,Uncategorized

Here are the types of photos I expected to take when I went up on the mountain, before I knew there was a fire.

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June 22nd, 2010 | Category: Arizona,Uncategorized

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

Such are the words that occur to me as I watch tens of thousands of acres of beautiful pine forest go up in smoke.   The fire is all-powerful, selfish, and indifferent, like all the forces of nature. Yet I can’t help but notice its terrible beauty.  Some parts of the cloud are delicate and indistinct; others stark and crisp.  Whatever it is, it is something I will never forget.

Here are various images of the enormous  cloud of steam, tiny particles, and CO2 that used to be forest.  My thoughts are with all of those who are affected by this fire.

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Information on the Schultz Pass fire

June 21st, 2010 | Category: Arizona,Uncategorized

I’m putting this here mostly so that I have a log of it. It’s probably not of much interest unless you know the area.

Dear Neighbors,

Here is the lastest information:

The Schultz Fire started at approximately 11:09 am on Sunday and is located west of north Highway 89, east of Flagstaff, and north of Mount Elden. The fire is currently more than 5,000 acres and growing with 0 percent containment. No structures have been lost. Currently no neighborhoods are experiencing loss of power.

Multiple resources have responded including the U.S. Forest Service and surrounding fire departments. Approximately 300 fire fighters, 8 air tankers, 4 heavy and one type 2 helicopter, and Air Attack (small fixed wing spotter plane) are assisting with this fire fighting effort. Due to high winds the air tankers ceased to fly at about 1:30 p.m. and went back into the air around 7:00 pm. Entities assisting with the effort include the United States Forest Service, the Coconino County Sheriff’s office, the Flagstaff Fire Department, Northern Arizona University and the State of Arizona. A Type One Incident Management Team has been ordered for the Schultz fire and will arrive on Sunday evening.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s office has evacuated 748 parcels in the Timberline neighborhood, the Wupatki Trails neighborhood and the Second Chance Animal Center. Animals from Second Chance Center have been relocated to Fort Tuthill County Park. The Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments are closed and have been evacuated.

Fernwood residents have been asked to be prepared to evacuate in the event that becomes necessary and has not been evacuated as was originally reported. The Sherriff’s office is recommending that evacuation kits include prescription medications, important paperwork, pet care products, a change of clothing and water.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has closed Highway 89 northbound at Silver Saddle and southbound at mile post 433. ADOT is allowing local traffic through the northbound closure at Silver Saddle.

DPS is suggesting alternative routes of State Route 64 through the East Entrance to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park (no commercial vehicles are permitted in the park) or State Route 160 through Tuba City to State Route 264 to State Route 87 onto Interstate 40. National Park Personnel will not charge motorists who advise they are on a detour route. Travelers who choose not to take one of these alternative routes may stay at the Red Cross Shelter at Mount Elden Middle School located at the northwest corner of Linda Vista and Fourth Street in Flagstaff.

Residents can expect smoke from both the Schultz and the Hardy fires to settle into neighborhoods overnight, including areas outside the immediate evacuation areas. Anyone who can see, taste or smell smoke should curtail outdoor activity. People with heart disease, lung disease or asthma should avoid outdoors entirely, as should children and the elderly. If you are in the areas with heavy smoke and have not been instructed to evacuate, you are advised to remain indoors or to leave the area if you experience breathing difficulties. Please consult the Coconino County Health Department website at regarding potential hazards dealing with smoke inhalation.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at Mt. Elden Middle School at 3233 North Fourth Street, Flagstaff. Evacuees are encouraged to register at Mt Elden Middle School to ensure information can be relayed.

The Salvation Army is reporting that no material donations are needed at this time. However, if individuals are interested in volunteering or financial donations, please call United Way of Northern Arizona at (928) 773-9813.

Additional information on the Schultz fire can be obtained at 1-888-679-8393.

There will be a community meeting tomorrow morning, as soon as I find out the time and location I will be getting information out to you immediately.

Elizabeth “Liz” Archuleta, Chair
Coconino County Board of Supevisors

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We summit Mount Humphreys, and see the Schultz Pass Fire

June 21st, 2010 | Category: Arizona,Uncategorized

You can click on any image to get a larger version.

My friend Steve came over this AM and we headed off to climb Mount Humphreys, the highest mountain in the state.We enjoyed the many spectacular sights along the way, and as we cleared the treeline and approached the saddle, I noticed these alpine flowers.  Nice, pretty flowers, and a fluffy white cloud – how picturesque!


I followed Steve up the jumbled and steep slope.  Wow, that’s some cloud, isn’t it?


More alpine flowers, and hey… look at those clouds!  Something doesn’t look right…


Oh, something isn’t right here.  Definitely not OK.  Is that flame on the right?


Yeah, that’s flame all right. Compare the height of the flame to the trees.


The flames would erupt in tornado-like gusts and send fast plumes of smoke into the air.  It looked like a nuclear weapon had detonated.



I think that the hot ash cloud was rising, cooling, and then sinking again, making a giant arch.  Not the degree of shadow cast by the plume.


Sometimes the flames would blast into the air, and sometimes they would flow along the ground like a wave.  Nothing could possibly withstand that blast, and it moved fast.


Aircraft were buzzing around, dropping chemical retardants and water.  They looked like fleas on a dog; how could they make any difference?  Note the tiny white dot near the center of this picture.


Here it is, magnified:


The plume morphed quickly and constantly.


A nice daytime moon is out.


Let’s take some callous tourist shots while the natural disaster unfolds.  Here’s me looking geeky because the wind is blowing my hat around (which has nothing to do with me being geeky, I know).




Steve calling his S.O.: “Hey, guess what I’m doing?”



A bit giddy from the altitude, we began to consider the reality.  This is so bad, we wonder if town is on fire.  We can only speculate that yesterday’s Hardy fire, not yet contained, has somehow jumped to the peaks; but the town of Flagstaff is in between.  What is happening to people’s homes?  What about all the wild animals?  How much forest will be destroyed?  I think it’s going to look like mars after it burns out.  Are there hikers trapped in there?  Is anyone hurt?  What about all the fireman risking their  lives to stop this?

It turns out that so far, no buildings have burned, and no people have been injured. But the future is uncertain.  Neighborhoods are being evacuated and a lot of people are going to spend an anxious night at a red cross shelter.  Fire like this happens so fast; this morning, nobody knew that this would happen.  We had no clue at all, and if we were spending the day below the saddle, we would have had no idea of the apocalyptic destruction unfolding just on the other side of the mountain.

We did meet a trio of students who had been hiking near the fire and were forced to hike many miles out of their way to avoid it.

Here’s the latest news on the fire as of the writing of this post.

Here are some excellent photos of aircraft fighting yesterday’s Hardy fire, which also caused evacuations in Flagstaff, and some night shots of the Schultz Pass fire.  These are from my co-worker Padraig.


Six years ago

June 19th, 2010 | Category: Uncategorized
Here’s a funny story about the time of my mom’s death, the sixth anniversary of which is approaching .  That’s right, a funny story.
She died only weeks before my first big trip to Hawaii, where I’d be working and scuba diving – a lifetime goal.  I went only 10 days after the ceremonies were over.

I had just been diving and was in a van with a bunch of people coming back from the dive site.  It was about a 30 minute drive. Everyone was in a good mood and chatting away like sparrows.

Of course I was in shock; the whole experience was surreal: to experience such great joy and wonder, yet to be in the midst of grief and loss. While I was underwater in this beautiful tropical environment, excited and triumphant, my heart was continuously falling out of my chest, and a leaden pall hung over every thought.  Living was a chore that took concentration.  But I soldiered on.
My relationship with my mother was close; a big part of my life was the adult equivalent of  “Mom come see!”  We shared my adventures through photographs I’d bring back and share with her.  It was a prime motivator for the development of my writing and photographic skills.

It turned out that the American Psychological Association was having its annual meeting in Hawaii that year, and literally everyone in the van with the exception my me and the driver were shrinks (and all women, many of my mother’s age.).  I later read in the newspaper that fifty thousand people came to the meeting!

One of my van-mates in particular seemed intent on finding out more about me, although I was not all that willing to divulge what was going on.  Eventually though, it came out that my mother had just passed away.  Then, the woman wanted to know when.  I was evasive.  She sensed blood and redoubled her efforts.

The entire population of the van united to crack this nut; it was a group therapy mugging, with one patient and 8 shrinks.  Finally I told her, and it was like a movie scene where a guy walks into a bar and the music stops.  I started laughing, and they must have thought I was really crazy.  But it was genuinely funny!

Six years later, I am still chuckling over the idea that three weeks after my mother died, I ended up trapped on a vacation island with 50000 shrinks, and the ones I met didn’t seem to understand me.  My mother would have laughed.

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