Nearly every morning last week Sedona residents awoke in a haze.

It wasn’t a haze of sleepiness holding over from the night before, but a smoky haze blanketing the entire Verde Valley.

A forest fire near Flagstaff sent smoke down the hill that settled in the bowl naturally created between the Mogollon Rim and the Black Hills. The smoke settled in the cool night air greeting us when the sun came up.

This is a price we pay for old fire policies calling for all natural forest fires to be put out immediately.

In the past, forest fires were thought to be threatening and were drowned as quickly as possible.

Since that time, our forest managers discovered fire’s role in an ecosystem’s cycle. Fire is necessary for forests to rejuvenate themselves, and some plant species don’t exist at all without it.

Years of playing Whack-A-Mole with fires left our forests overgrown and out of their natural balance.

Now, forest managers are trying to compensate with a more hands-off approach to managing naturally occurring wildfires. Forest managers also authorize prescribed burns in the fall.

As was the case with Northern Arizona’s most recent fire, forest managers allow fire to participate in balancing the ecosystem as long as it doesn’t threaten civilization. The result is dealing with smoky air and the side effects it creates.

When my throat and eyes were burning last week it was hard for me to remember the importance of fire in the forest. My respiratory system begged for a break. Maybe it’s Mother Nature’s way of reminding us she knows what she’s doing and sometimes we need to step aside and let the forces of nature take care of the Earth.