It's fire season in Utah. It's been fire season for a while and we've got a while yet to go. But August always seems to be the worst. After the summer when the sun heats the valley like a kiln and the grasses and trees bake into tinder, the big lightning storms that come in August and September are a source of fear and delight. Big, fat raindrops. Spectacular displays in the sky. Wild fires from each strike.
Yesterday I watched three fires burn. The first was in a canyon just behind Downtown. I saw the first wisps of smoke rise and then orange swirl into the sky. From the safety of my marble lobby I watched the fire spread within 20 minutes to encompass the entire ridge of grassy mountain. I watched it hit a firebreak and I watched it jump the fire break. I watched flashing red lights rush through the smoke. Then I turned away, logged out of my computer, and left for home.
Later, Julia and I drove out to my parent's house for my little brother's birthday party. Two more fires in the mountains around their house. That's seven in their area this summer. I wound my way slowly up the canyon, cars were pulling off the road to watch flames lick the clouds that didn't offer enough water to quench them. I passed the new man-made lagoon at the entrance of "The Cove at Herriman Springs." In the middle of the desert, a man-made lagoon. A bit of liquid folly. The helicopter was taking off with its hanging bucket of lagoon water. Folly turned fruitful. That lagoon has helped put out three fires this summer. I wonder if the developers thought of that. I doubt it. They were probably just thinking about saving money on landscape. Grass is more expensive than a lake.
Our whole family sat on my parents' deck and watched the helicopter fly back and forth with the buckets of water. We watched the two small planes spread the fire retardant. The fires weren't large yet. They didn't threaten my parents' house. But the aircraft worked feverishly. The President was flying in and the "no fly" order included fire fighting.
We just do our best despite the powers that be.
I cried as I drove home through clouds of char. A natural process, wild fires. Still: unaccountable, grievous, destructive. Something you do what you can to prevent and still sometimes it sweeps in and alters everything. Leaving behind: bitter ash, blackened memories, numbness, death.
The thundering, the bolts, the flames, the frenzy all seemed appropriate to yesterday. So too, my grief and heartache at the distant damage.