Arizona was a much different place. Phoenix's population had just topped one hundred thousand and the area was a rich, agricultural valley - one of the most fertile in the world. We were surrounded by groves of oranges, lemons, grapefruit and fields of cotton and alfalfa. Most (if not all) of that is gone today; replaced with concrete, asphalt and gravel. Summers were hot, but dry and an evaporative cooling unit (often referred to as a swamp cooler) was adequate due to the low humidity. The abundant green space allowed for sufficient overnight cooling; it might be 110 during the day, but the temp would drop at night into the 60's. Today the entire Phoenix area is a gigantic "heat-sink" mostly devoid of shade. The overnight temps from the triple-digit days rarely get below 80. The arrival of June marked the beginning of the "Monsoon" season with the cooling rains. Now, they arrive later, don't last as long and bring less rain.
It was a wonderful place to grow up ....... but I'd never move back.
In 1990, six firefighters were killed fighting the "Dude" fire northwest of Payson. Five were inmates from the State Prison and one a guard. My mother's church opened their community buildings to house and rest the many crews. Needless to say, the lack of rain and fire danger are a constant topic of conversation in North-Central Arizona.
I heard about the tragedy in Yarnell this morning on the radio (we listen to a Prescott, Arizona radio station on the internet).
During the 50's and 60s, I camped and hiked and traveled many of the backroads of this area with my family and Scout Troop.
From my visits to see my 91 year-old Mom a couple of times a year, I can see how the climate, culture and condition of the state has changed; and it saddens me.
My heart goes out to the families of the firefighters that were lost. We never appreciate their day-to-day labor and effort until they make the ultimate sacrifice. Thanks Guys ........ RIP.