R.I.P. Yarnell Firefighters

Hideous  news out of the rustic little plateau town of Yarnell, where we love to hang out. Nineteen Hotshot firefighters died in a brushfire trying to protect homes. They were dropped into an area near the fire but the wind shifted and blew them off-course, so they were surrounded by a wall of flames.

We’re told half the town has already burned: 250 homes. On Twitter, where the most immediate news is appearing, they’re saying the area called Glen Isla is burning. La Maya and La Bethulia’s place is in another section, so there’s still a little hope. But it looks like a pretty remote one.

It took a while to get ahold of them. Mercifully, they were both here in the Valley — at a movie, far from the lurid news. So it was good to know they’re OK.

Sort of. La Maya has been using the Yarnell house as a writing retreat this summer, spending the weeks up there working on a monograph that she needs to finish before she goes up for full professor. She has a lot of research materials stashed there, much of it from archives here and in Ohio. That will be a very serious loss, if their house burns. Hope she brought her laptop down here, at least.

The A-frame house they show going up in flames looks very much like one SDXB and I looked at some years ago. We decided against it, he being highly skeptical about the construction in the outlying counties, where building codes are most often honored in the breach. That was one of three houses up there that I’ve seriously thought I could live in. But the prospect of abandoning what little social life I have in the sixth-largest city in America to move to a small town was just a bit too daunting. And the prospect of taking care of two houses was too much to contemplate.

Thank goodness! I’m sooo glad I don’t own property up there.

Once a fire gets started in that chaparral up there, it can move extremely fast, especially at this time of year when everything is tinder-dry and winds can really whip around. The town is built right up into the chaparral, many of the houses nestled among the huge, picturesque boulders. Really, as I think about it, just about every house has trees and brush growing right up to the walls. There’s a tree in direct contact with La M & La B’s deck, and the house I coveted the last time we were up there had a large, flammable-looking tree towering over it. A fast fire in a fast wind would be almost impossible to stop.

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