“What’s that smoke?” I wondered, startled, as I strode to meet friends at a downtown Flagstaff music festival. At first no one else seemed to notice the plume billowing overhead — I guess it’s a pilot’s nature to peer continually upward — but sidewalk crowds soon began gathering to snap cell-phone photos.
There was a perverse beauty to this gargantuan column of soot piercing a cobalt sky, and I found myself craving my own camera to photograph orange-and-white air tankers and helicopters swarming to attack under a vivid midday moon.
Flagstaff is not a big place, and the thought of so large a fire close to town was mortifying. But for the moment, no one seemed to know anything about it. Just south of town at Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, however, Wiseman Aviation owner Orville Wiseman had just received a tearful call from his son, Grant.
“Firemen just came to our house, Dad; they said we need to evacuate right now!” The airwaves soon trumpeted news of the ‘Hardy Fire” threatening the city’s east side. An email from Orville waited when I got home. “Guess whose house was one of the closest to the initial fire…”
Photos: The Schultz Fire viewed from Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, Arizona; a landing Erickson Air-Crane helitanker. *See more fire photos here.
©2010 Gregory N. Brown
If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!