There's been a fire up in Soledad Canyon in the mountains above Las Cruces for the last week and a half. It was intentionally started as a live fire training exercise on Fort Bliss (Army) land, got out of control, and the last I heard it had consumed 5000 acres and was 60% under control. Now a second fire has now started and has covered another 1500 acres.
On the first day I could see the smoke from the house and took these photos. The first was taken with my "big" Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, and shows you how far away the fire was.
I had trouble sleeping that night, thinking about the fire and all the tiny animals that might not be able to get away from it. I talked with a ranger from one of the state parks over the weekend and he reminded me that fire is "nature's housekeeper" and is a crucial part of any ecosystem (even though these were clearly started by people). He told me how, after the big Yellowstone fires of 1988, rangers took people into areas that appeared devastated by the fires, yet they scooped up handfuls of burned-over soil and showed that it was filled with seeds that wouldn't have otherwise been dispersed without the fire. Scientists are learning more all the time about the beneficial role of fire in the wild.
The second picture was taken with my new little point and shoot Canon PowerShot SD 1300 IS Digital ELPH (how could such a tiny camera have such a big name?) zoomed in to give you a better idea of the spreading smoke:
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