Manzanita trees look more like bushes, a red and grey mosaic of thick smooth bark with thorns and small leaves, their moisture and color shunted to the center of each leaf, spanning every shade of brown and green. Thousands of them cover the eastern and south facing slopes of hills and mountains, tougher than the ponderosas and junipers on the western and north facing slopes. They take the brunt of the afternoon sun and it's dry air.
Tall yellow grasses in the arroyos bellow start wet each morning, drying every hour until they’re as brittle as paper. The ground bakes by the minute, hot air from valleys, washes, and gullies starts pushing its way upslope.
At 3 o'clock, latent heat kicks in and every living thing has given the air all the water night deposited. A thread of white smoke rises from small slow moving flames in the gully below, eating grass as it slowly moves uphill. A gust of wind pushes it faster, then faster. The flames grow taller than a man. Their scalding heat igniting grasses and rodents 10 - 15 feet ahead, then 20-30 feet ahead.
A blackened animal thundered across a dirt road paying no attention to the men in yellow helmets. Scurrying under the brush it found a utility pole and ran up as fast as it could. It’s singed body collided with the electric transformer at the top, a loud pop and a flash of light. The singed bobcat fell back to the ground. The men continued.