“It had been beastly hot, 100 degrees Fahrenheit even at 6,000 feet in elevation. Down in the desert, Phoenix was suffering a record-breaking temperature of 122. Drought stressed the forest. Precipitation the winter of 1989-1990 had been below normal and everything waited for a spark like the proverbial tinder box. Years of poor forest management had left the forests overgrown with small, unhealthy trees and underbrush. The philosophy of the 20th century was to put out all forest fires, however, fire was a natural part of the eco-system and a valuable tool for Mother Nature to eliminate undergrowth and promote new, healthy growth. The afternoon of June 25th, 1990, a bolt of lightning from a dry thunder storm sent a deafening explosion echoing over the ridge from the direction of Dude Creek, north of Payson. (Dude Creek is so named because old-timers thought a fellow named Frank McClintock who once settled there to be a city dude, not familiar with the wilderness under the Mogollon Rim.) About twenty minutes later a small airplane flew over the canyon. It was a spotter plane for the Forest Service. Within the hour bombers with their loads of fire retarding slurry were making regular runs heading for the spreading fire. During the next twenty-four hours the Dude Fire got completely out of control and spread from five acres to almost thirty thousand acres of prime wilderness in the Tonto, Coconino, and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.”
Read the first-hand account of the June 1990 Dude Fire that burned 25,000 acres and killed six Arizona firefighters. 21 pages.
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