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A Great AridnessClimate Change and the Future of the American Southwest$
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William deBuys

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199778928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199778928.001.0001

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Mogollon Plateau: Fires Present and Future

Mogollon Plateau: Fires Present and Future

Chapter:
(p.236) 9 Mogollon Plateau: Fires Present and Future
Source:
A Great Aridness
Author(s):

William deBuys

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199778928.003.0014

Early on June 19, 2002, Paul Garcia looked off the rim of the Mogollon Plateau and did not like what he saw. Down toward Cibecue, the capital of the Fort Apache Reservation, home of the White Mountain Apaches, dark smoke boiled into the Arizona sky. The wind was pushing it in Garcia’s direction, toward the rim, as the prevailing southwest wind always pushed fires that start down on the Rez. The churning smoke—dark-tinged because of solid materials that volatilized without burning—told Garcia that the fire was gaining energy, building strength. He was the fire management officer of the Lakeside Ranger District, a unit of the Sitgreaves National Forest. His boss, a couple of steps up the chain of command, was Forest Supervisor John Bedell, who remembers getting a call from Garcia: “He said, ‘You know, this thing has some potential. . . . If they don’t catch it today, it’s going to get pretty big.’ ” The firefig hters on the reservation didn’t catch it. The Rodeo Fire, which began as an act of arson near the Cibecue rodeo grounds, grew from a size of 1,000 acres on June 18 to 55,000 acres the next day. Garcia, Bedell, and a burgeoning army of Forest Service firefighters scrambled to meet the fire atop the rim, hoping to hold it at the rim road that marked the boundary between the reservation and the National Forest. They did not succeed. By mid-afternoon the fire had developed multiple towering plumes of smoke and ash. Its front advanced at an average rate of four miles an hour. Whole stands of eighty-foot trees ignited in an instant, shooting flames 400 feet high and lofting aerial firebrands half a mile downwind. By 4:00 p.m., some of those firebrands were spotting across the rim road. The Mogollon Rim is one of the most pronounced topographic features of the Southwest.

Keywords:   Chediski Fire, Douglas-firs, Forest Reserves, Hayman Fire, Indians, Mogollon Rim, National Forests, Piute fire, Rodeo Fire, Yellowstone National Park

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