The East Canyon fire was just another 3,000-acre fire of the 2020 season. No lives and nary a structure lost; just a blink in the long, smoky wince of 31,000 fires and two million acres so far this year.
But suddenly, on a hot and breezy Sunday, dozens of us were heeding mandatory evacuation orders. Later that day and for days, we watched as DC-10s dropped red streaks of slurry on the ridge, as 400 fire fighters made busy our dead-end gravel roads, as helicopter pilots deftly dipped buckets into the canyon’s two tiny ponds.
Within two weeks, the fire was officially out and I got up on the ridge to consider the devastation. It was awesome. I mean that like the dictionary says: ‘inspiring reverence, respect, dread, and wonder.’
The scrub oak, the juniper, the piñon, the Ponderosa, the mule’s ears, the yucca and asters. All gone. Lacking flora, there was no fauna. Lacking flora and fauna, there was no noise.
What captivated me the most was the game trails. They were revealed, like inscriptions on paper rubbed with charcoal. Ghost paths of routine journeys traced. Oh, the stories they told.
In another week, green shoots of oak and yucca would sprout. We’d see fresh deer tracks and birds flitting and we’d be reminded that devastation is but a prelude to renewal.