A single tree burns in southwest New Mexico after a lightning strike. For more than 100 years, the U.S. Forest Service has been posting men and women atop mountains and trees, and in other hard-to-reach places, to wait and watch for smoke.
Can you see it? The fire in the photo above?
A single tree burning doesn’t put up much smoke.
There’s a flash of lightning, sizzling across the sky. Then a pause as bark smolders and flames creep, building heat until poof: a signal in the sky.
Philip Connors, gazing outward from a tower, sees it as a new dent on the crest of a distant ridge. He’s spent thousands of hours contemplating the contours of southwest New Mexico. The fuzzy smudge is out of place.