Reminder: You can enlarge any of the photos in this blog by clicking on it. Click again for a full-screen image.
Yesterday evening a fire, ignited most likely by lightning, burned a dozen or so acres of brush near the summit of Big Horn Mountain in the Pusch Ridge region of the Santa Catalina Mountains. For those of you who are not familiar with Tucson and its environs, the Santa Catalinas are a range of mountains running across the top of the Tucson area, in an east-west direction. The mountains are plainly visible from all parts of town. The Big Horn Mountain fire is the second fire that has started on the upper slopes of the Santa Catalinas this summer. It’s not a particularly unusual phenomenon. Dry grass and brush accumulates and lightning then touches off a blaze. At this time of the year, with monsoon rains a sporadic phenomenon, the fires are often self-contained. It could have been a very different story if one of these fires had occurred in the dry months of April – June.
I was able to take a couple of long-exposure photographs of the fire from my back yard, after sunset. The sun was below the horizon but the last rays of sunlight reflected from some low-lying clouds that were emanating from nearby thunderstorms. That, coupled with the visible fire, created an eerie effect. To me, it was reminiscent of the German folk tales about Walpurgisnacht — April 30 — when witches and demons ostensibly gather on the Brocken, the largest mountain in Germany’s Harz Mountains, to worship Satan. But, then, I have a vivid imagination.
The fire burned brightly for several hours and then seemed to extinguish itself.
As of this afternoon there is no smoke rising from the mountain. Perhaps the fire was extinguished by a passing storm or, possibly, it ran out of fuel to sustain itself. These fires have a tendency to go dormant for a day or more and then, start up again, reignited by high winds and dry conditions, so we’ll see whether we’re done with it or not.
Small brush fires like this one are considered to be beneficial by the Forest Service. They consume dry brush and give ground cover an opportunity to regenerate. Most important, the small fires of the monsoon deny fuel to what can become monster fires during the dry season.
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 70-200mm f4L IS zoom @ 200 mm, ISO 100, shutter preferred setting, tripod mounted. The first photo was made at 1/2 second at f4, the second photo was made at 6/10 second at f4.