Santa Fe has a lot in common with Bedrock. It’s almost entirely made out of stone (or stucco). However, New Mexico is in a major burn zone, suffering from a serious drought and covered in forests that are wallpapered with dead and dried wood. Not a great combination, particularly when local heat flux is prone to cause power lines to snap. We now have two major fires, one on each side of us, both caused by faulty power lines in the worst place at the worst time.
The Jemez Mountains fire has grown to 9,400 acres as of today, with only fifteen percent of it contained. On the other end, the Tres Lagunas fire, just north of Pecos, has grown to 9,000 acres with fifteen percent containment. That’s over 18,000 acres on fire, all around us. While the largely flame retardant nature of the buildings in this town provide some comfort, they can catch fire, and more over, there is the risk associated with smoke inhalation. You can always smell a fire before you can see it.
I remember on Sunday I felt sick to my stomach, the slow poisoning of the previous forty eight hours holistically reaching into my body and throwing wrenches in my gear works. Sweat, an upset stomach, a mild headache, muscle aches and pains, some dizziness. You don’t think about how it can accumulate with time. The smoke had been around since Friday, and little by little I had been breathing it in. It didn’t feel that different from a rapid-onset flu, but I had seen it before.
This is hardly the first time that a major fire has crept uncomfortably close to my mascot city. Back in 2011, Los Alamos caught fire, and the flames crept so close to Santa Fe that you could see them on the mountainside. That’s maybe ten miles away, with forest fires travelling at up to sixty miles an hour. I wasn’t here at the time, but my sister was and I believe the town was being evacuated. I thought of this the other day, when I got on board a public bus and looked out my window; I couldn’t smell the smoke, but I could see it, a distinctly black cloud rising up over the horizon. It turned the sun into a forty Watt blood stain, dim enough for me to painlessly look straight at during the whole ride home. Radiance and daylight everywhere else, but the sun itself, nothing; I desperately wished I had a camera with me at the time.
Naturally I had to wonder if I might be packing a bag and evacuating Santa Fe soon. Not that this would entirely be a bad thing; there are a few people in this town, whom I can think of specifically, that have something like this coming. I’m not saying that they’re all like this, but I can think of several land owners that seem to be convinced that they are above the law, legal and natural, and have the business ethics of used car dealers on crystal meth.
I’m reminded of the year that I spent in New York during my brief hiatus from Santa Fe. That was 2012. There were issues with power transportation out there, namely that the proper funding was not going to the power company for line maintenance and they were cutting corners to compensate. When the leaves were down, I had a clear line of sight from my place in the hills to Manhattan, right across the Hudson River. All the same, I can think of no less than twice in a six month space that the power was out for several days. The changing weather patterns didn’t help, as New York is entirely unprepared for actual hurricanes. When the uncut tree limbs began to fall, the lines split, and it was country life all over again. I wonder if it’s a similar issue that is allowing so much dry timber to accumulate in New Mexico.
In the mean while, I continue to work my morning accounting job, write, and program. I’m ready to leave if I have to, and even if the fire does sweep this part of town I’ve got most of my important files backed up online. I’ve been building a software vocoder for the first time; not for the weak of spirit or the arithmophobic, especially the ones that have a problem with calculus. It would honestly be a lot easier if I could just use some basic analog bandpass filters, but then it wouldn’t be software. The chronicle of this adventure may be a satisfactory topic for a future post. Unless of course it gets burnt down in its entirety, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
Real-time report on progress of the Jemez fire (with map): http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/3401/
- Smoke from Pecos targets Santa Fe area (krqe.com)
- Wildfires Spread in New Mexico, Smoke Pours Into Capital (theepochtimes.com)
- New Mexico Wildfires Cause Evacuations (theepochtimes.com)
- NM crews fight wildfires, smoke pours into capital (heraldonline.com)
- NM crews fight wildfires, smoke pours into capital (cnsnews.com)
- Power lines now issue in forest fires (krqe.com)
- Smoke fills Santa Fe as 2 wildfires grow (sfgate.com)
- New Mexico Blaze Forces Evacuations, Threatens Homes (theepochtimes.com)