Elevenths - Phase I: After Burn
So yeah, my own government burned me out of house and home thanks to an incompetent ass of a district forest ranger unqualified for directing any prescribed burn. Me and more than four hundred other people living within more than three hundred forty-one thousand acres of old-growth forest carpeting the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are now dealing with the aftermath of that district ranger's decision to start the prescribed burn during extreme drought conditions at the windiest time of year. The time of year every kid in the region knows is the best for kite flying, and also knows well not to be lighting any damn campfires in times of drought.
Only photographic imagery stirs memories of the grand, expansive beauty of the place.
Its new look sucks big time, handiwork of a USFS district ranger carelessly playing with fire.
Stepping into charred remains of forestland causes physical pain from sight and smell of it.
Wildfire fighters heroically prepared the meadow as best they could to withstand the fire's raging onslaught which expanded more than thirty thousand acres on the day it roared through here. I have nothing but respect for them, yet absolutely none for the USFS district ranger responsible for this mass destruction. His future is of absolutely no concern of mine, but I do not expect he will live happily ever after. How could anyone with any iota of sensitivity do so? The state has recently started selling retail marijuana. Maybe he can stay stoned and drunk enough from here on out to deaden any feelings of guilt and remorse.
Root holes of old trees collect needles dropping from still-standing neighbors scorched by intense heat. Nothing remains of their long-lived vitality and serene, green beauty–just ash.
And almost two decades living in a meadow surrounded by such majestic forest is over. The forest will not regrow within my remaining years of life and rebuilding in wilderness there may not be a wise thing to do considering how much rain could soon be coming to the area.
So begins phase one of the Elevenths. A time full of long days doing paperwork for insurance adjusters and FEMA bureaucrats duty-bound to help victims recover as best they can and powerless in too many ways to be truly effective. In the meantime, chokecherry and scrub oak shoots are emerging from roots which did survive the firestorm. Signs of renewal.
But even as meadow grass greens back up, monsoon clouds are gathering portent of extremely unstable after-burn conditions in the canyon, threatening devastating flash floods and mudslides from every upslope direction. Phase two of the Elevenths begins next with the long, patient wait to see how the wilderness responds after being decimated by wildfire.