Then my better half spoke up and asked if I had seen the smoke. Smoke? It wasn't a weird rain cloud after all. Yellowish smoke was billowing off of Frye Mesa thousands of feet into the sky and obscuring the sun overhead. The temperature started to drop due to the shade. Frye Mesa is the site of a small dam and water collection area for the city of Safford, Arizona water utility. The city gets water from several sources but Frye Mesa has been contributing fresh mountain water for decades.
After nightfall the extent of this brand new fire, being driven by gusty winds, is quite terrifying. I estimate it has climbed up Frye Canyon or Ash Creek Canyon several miles. The sickly orange glow outlines it's destructive path.
Frye Canyon ends near the summit of Mt. Graham (above 10,700 feet elevation) at the multi-million dollar, world famous telescopes. Recently the newspaper USA Today characterized the Large Binocular Telescope there as superior to the Hubble; therefore, the best in the world today. Ash Creek Canyon ends at 9500 feet elevation at the Columbine Work Center of the US Forest Service. Also located there are dozens of summer cabins, a Forest Service visitors center, a summer camp, and a spruce-shaded campground I enjoy a lot. Obviously there is much at stake with this fire.
I have no idea yet on the source of the ignition. A rumor says it was a prescribed burn but a check of authorized burns does not verify this. Frye Mesa is home of an invasive weed that I know the forest service has been trying hard to eradicate, but I hardly think they would have been out there setting fires when there was a Red Flag Warning today with local wind gust of up to 55 miles per hour forecast.
I will up-date here as more information becomes available. In the meantime I have a front row seat to the terrorism of fire on a dry southeastern Arizona mountain forest.