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Into The Belly Of The Beast

by Crystal Coons
Jul 7, 2004

Wildfire season is upon us once again, and once again, there's media frenzy on every channel, everywhere you look. It seems that we've all becoming immune to these tales of burning forests and the vast amounts of acres burnt don't even faze us anymore.

At least, that's where I stood until last night. Last night, I witnessed what I thought I saw, but had really been blind to all along.

It started with a routine out of town business trip to Northern Arizona
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The State of Arizona comprises the extreme south-western portion of the United States. It is bounded on the north by Utah, on the east by New Mexico, on the south by Mexico, and on the west by California and Nevada.

with Mr. Arizona Paths
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. After a delicious dinner at The Hideaway, we decided to take our route back to Phoenix via Payson, currently playing host to the Willow fire. Within a few hours we had left the New Age serenity that is Sedona to something that I can only describe as horrific. We saw the red and orange flame from quite a distance actually, and it didn't really look like anything exciting. As we exited the town of Payson, on the Beeline Highway, it became clear to us, this was more than just an awesome sight. It was the seemingly unstoppable destruction of the state we both had grown to love.

To the eyes of someone who has never witnessed a wildfire in her life, the only way I can describe it would be to go back to my youth, and the teachings I had of the religious hell. A raging inferno, blazing in destruction, striking fear into the heart of all who rested their eyes upon it.

And that it did. Immediately my heart began to race, and my tension level mounted. All of the land, all of the trees just burnt to a crisp right before my eyes, and there was nothing I could do about it. It must have been one of the most frustrating moments of my life. I felt angry, helpless, vengeful and overwhelmed all at once.

The part that is perhaps the most frustrating thing of all is that I know once this one is gone; there will another to take its place. And there's nothing we can do to stop it. There was something to be learned from this experience however -- Having seen the damage first hand, I can certainly appreciate the media reports and the severity of the situations. Most importantly, I have discovered a newfound respect for the wild fire forest rangers and firefighters who dive into the belly of the beast each and every fire season, and to them, we owe our deepest gratitude.

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