It was between 5 and 6 that the sirens began. At least I think that’s when it was. Up on Opera Drive above the Gulch it’s hard to tell where the sirens are coming from until they start up the Gulch! It seemed they were converging from everywhere. The fire crew from the station up Tombstone Canyon, coming down 80. Sirens coming around the pit. Then a white car, exhibiting a siren and one small red light on the dashboard came up the Gulch and proceeded up Brewery towards Zacatecas Canyon. Couldn’t tell how far up it went. Siren was turned off.
Then the fire vehicles, various, began to congregate in the parking lot where the original Copper Queen smelter was. And then there were three police cars, sirens intermittently sounding, coming up the Gulch and on toward Zacetecas. I watched from my south-facing balcony as more emergency vehicles gathered in the parking lot.
And then the planes started flying. Time at this point was lost. Things were happening minute-to-minute. For the four years I have lived on Opera Drive I’ve always been amazed at the way sound, carried by the wind, swirls around in this bowl.
And then I see a two-engine prop plane coming from the west flying low enough for me to see that it had two engines and several windows and a red stripe down along it’s fuselage. I estimated it would seat 8 to 13 people. It was clear that he (or she) was circling Old Bisbee.
Then I heard a deep roar and presently saw a larger plane coming in low across from the north, also circling counter-clockwise over Old Bisbee. What was going on?
[Update: 21:19… The smell of smoke for the first time is reaching Opera Drive]
We watched. We waited. The two planes, the smaller being more agile and the larger, a heavy-bodied one that I a short time later learned from a friend was carrying slurry to spread on a fire somewhere up Zacetecas Canyon but apparently beyond the ridge to the north, continued to circle every few minutes.
The parking lot opposite the mouth of the Gulch was still filled with emergency fire vehicles. I had not seen any of the three police cars that went up the Gulch come back down.
And then I noticed the turkey buzzards. All of us knows that a kettle of turkey buzzrds may form on any warm afternoon this time of year. It’s usually anywhere from six to twelve that congregate and circle, riding the warm currentls upward, and swirling in lazy swirls, obviously interacting with one another, but this was different. I first noticed a group of dozens who were obviously traveling south, having originated from somewhere up Tombstone Canyon. I watched as this group seemed to gather over the west end of the pit and then shift back towards the peak above Youngblood Hill. And then I looked back north and saw another swarm coming over the High Road from the direction of Laundry Hill. And they just kept coming in droves until there were an estimated more than a hundred. Or more. They seemed to have been roused from their roost by the planes flying over so low.
A friend called who knew about the fire. While we had strong suspitions that the cause of the emergency might be a fire, we had no idea that they were evacuating Zacatecas Canyon, up above Brewery Ave. Above the Mimosa Mkt. was what my friend reported.
By now it was getting on past seven (nineteen-hundred hours) and the emergency fire vehicles were still gathered together in the parking lot that the Copper Queen smelter once occupied. The planes were flying less frequently but still circling every few minutes.
I maintained my vigil on my front balcony for some time. A friend happened to walk by who had actually seen the larger plane eluded to above spray slurry up at the top of the ridge above Zacatecas Canyon above my house. This was the first time I had known that the fire was right above me and not completely on the other side of the ridge.
After some three hours the planes quit flying. It was at least an hour later when the fire emergency vehicles left the parking lot across from the mouth of the Gulch
But the wind is kicking up. From what direction outside this bowl it’s impossible to tell. I’m smelling smoke.
… To be continued …