Staying Cool in the Sonoran Desert – and the Unexpected Benefits of Forest Fires (The Grand Tour)

By lunchtime, the sun in the Arizona desert is so hot that the thermometer reads more than 100 degrees in the shade. That means the ground is so hot it hurts my little paws. I soon discovered that the large drinking bowl in the backyard is also good for swimming. On really hot days, it’s a good idea just to cover yourself in a wet towel and stand right in the water to keep cool.

During my stay in Tucson, a huge forest fire burned in the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains for more than three weeks. Those are not thunderstorm clouds I’m looking at in the picture here, but the smoke from the fires. Sometimes, forest fires start because careless people do not put out their campfires, or because they throw cigarettes from their car windows. This is a very bad thing.

But sometimes, fires start because Nature needs to rejuvenate a forest. Rejuvenate means “bring new life to.” How does something as destructive as a fire bring new life to a forest? I wondered the same thing myself….

It turns out that, if there are too many small, dead bushes in a forest – called undergrowth, because they grow under the trees – a fire might start naturally, perhaps by a lightning strike during a summer storm. After the undergrowth burns away, the majestic forest trees have more room to breathe. And underneath the tall trees, smaller trees and bushes have room to be born. Those healthy new bushes and trees then provide new, green homes for all the little animals of the forest. This is a very good thing!

So while you and I must never, ever do anything to start a forest fire, I find it most fascinating that Nature herself can use such a destructive force to help the forest grow stronger and healthier.