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My throat is sore, my eyes burn and my head throbs — smoke smothers Sedona yet again.

For the past two weeks smoke covering Sedona has gotten progressively thicker each morning. On Thursday morning, July 28, Uptown was barely visible from the Brewer Road and State Route 89A roundabout. As my husband said that morning when he called to warn me about the smoke, “I feel like I’m driving into a forest fire.”

Every year Sedona experiences a spell of campfire-grade air quality due to forest fires, either wild or managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and each time it becomes more frustrating.

I realize residents are now paying for the Forest Service’s past mistakes with regard to forest fire management, and letting naturally occurring fires burn is essential to rebalance forest ecosystems. However, “managing” to me also means managing the smoke produced and communicating with communities affected via the local newspaper.

Last week, the Forest Service did a good job keeping us updated on the Bolt Fire, burning south of Munds Park, but as smoke thickened and its statements made in our July 20 newspaper proved false, correspondence dwindled.

This week, our newsroom received only one fire update Wednesday, July 27.

In Patrick Whitehurst’s July 20 front page article, USFS staff told him their plan entailed letting the fire burn until Saturday, July 23. Well, as I write this editorial, it’s Thursday, July 28.

USFS staff also claimed Sedona residents would experience smoke conditions similar to those seen July 16 and 17. Smoke was noticeable then, but you could see across the street in Uptown.

The article then goes on to quote a spokesperson saying, “If it looks like we’re getting too much [smoke] in the communities, we will actively suppress it and try and stop the smoke or maybe even mitigate the fire, making it burn a little slower, if we can do that.”

It doesn’t appear to me much is being done to lessen the presence of smoke, but we also probably wouldn’t be aware of any such efforts since the stream of press releases nearly dried up. USFS also claimed last week it typically tries to keep in touch with communities affected by smoke. Well, I’m not sure who it keeps in touch with because Sedona’s only newspaper sure hasn’t heard much from them.

Maybe the Forest Service’s emails were lost in the smoke.

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People in this conversation

  • Charles

    There are indeed options to burning. Mechanical thinning could be used instead of polluting our air and wasting the energy stored by these materials. I strongly urge the FS to abandon buring in favor of mechanical thinning. Industry is willing to get involved, evidently, but need longer contracts than the FS is willing to allow them in order to make their efforts economically feasible.

  • Dewhurst

    Like it or not, the reality is that the residents of Sedona live in an ecosystem that is designed to burn at very regular intervals. This serves to recycle nutrients into the soil, keep hazardous fuels buildup in check, and maintain a genetic stock that is adapted to fire. None of these benefits of wildland fire can be emulated by any other treatment, including mechanical thinning. The southwest forests have lived in symbiosis with fire for millions of years. It is arrogant and selfish to demand a hault to such a process. We are not the center of the universe people! Deal with the smoke or move.

  • Doer, not Complainer

    Here's a thought... how about the newspaper get off their duff and have a reporter actually call someone to get the information instead of waiting for it to fall in your lap. It's called Journalism, which requires RESEARCH. Have we become so comfortable with technology that we just wait for an email to come and then complain when it doesn't? Seems so.

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