After the Florida Fire 2005
By Karen McBride
So many of our favorite places in the Santa Rita Mountains changed dramatically in the last month because of the Florida Fire that began with a lightening strike on July 7, 2005. There were more than 23,000 acres in the fire zone, but the good news is that only 3% of those acres were burned severely and 78% were either unburned or barely burned and will come back. I was encouraged by the Friends of Madera Canyon public forum held at the West Social Center in Green Valley on Friday, August 5, where a panel of Forest Service personnel brought us all up-to-date. What great news that 4,043 acres on the north and east sides of the fire will be seeded with native grasses, that cattle control fences will be repaired, and that there was no significant wildlife loss!
And I was also encouraged by my stroll up the Vault Mine Trail to the Carrie Nation Mine on Thursday morning. It looks like it always did. The creek was trickling down into small pools among green carpets of monsoon wildflowers; small birds were singing and traveling in large, twittering feeding flocks; troops of raucous Mexican Jays followed me along the trail; a Broad-tailed Hummingbird purred past my ear; a rare Black-and-white Warbler hitched up a tree trunk; and there was no fire odor, just the delicious smell of sunshine on pine needles. The lodges are intact, as are the picnic areas, the Proctor Trail, the Nature Trail, and the steep trail to the Vault Mine. I am so grateful for what has been saved.
Now we must be patient while the Forest Service removes the most dangerous trees from the higher trails. As we were hiking yesterday on the Box Canyon Trail on Mt. Lemmon, we were very aware of the blackened, fragile trees waving in a stiff breeze over our heads. Cracking and popping noises brought home the reality of what we will see in areas of the Florida Fire, and how much we want our hikers and birders to be safe.
At Friday’s forum, the Forest Service gave a stern warning that unless you want to appear before a judge in a Tucson court, you must not enter a closed trail in the Santa Ritas. For a list of trail closures and future openings, direct your browser to: www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/florida/. No matter how antsy you get, do not trespass. Perhaps by November, volunteer trail crews from the Green Valley Hiking Club and Friends of Madera Canyon will be allowed to help reopen the lower elevation trails. [Editor's Note: As of Jan 2010, all trails are open.]
In the meantime, it’s still cool and beautiful in Madera Canyon. The birds and wildlife are still there; the creeks still flow; there is still peace on earth. Thank goodness! And thank the fire crews for what has been saved.
Florida fire July 10, 2005 - Al Tozier
Aftermath of Florida fire - mosaic burns across the Santa Ritas - G.West