We fear fire in Arizona. It is the enemy, despite what the naturalists tell us and I know in my heart to be true: it’s a necessary part of the life cycle. It is the great purger. It keeps the forests thinned and the cactus growing.

I know all of these things. But I still fear the flames that seem not to ignite, but to explode.

One time when my children were very young, David and I took them and my mother and sister on a picnic to Oak Creek Canyon, outside of Sedona. After lunch, Mom and Buffy and I took the kids to the little bathroom for a pit stop before we hit the road again. Just as I had all three toddlers assembled on the toilets with their cartoon underpants around their ankles, I heard David’s frantic pounding on the door. “Hurry, hurry. We’ve got to run right now.”

A fire was roaring towards the picnic ground. I didn’t even have time to get the kids’ underwear pulled back up. Each of us women ran through the woods to the car with a half-naked kid tucked under her arm — including my elderly mother.

It had all started in the blink of an eye, when a grill tipped over. It took less than a minute for the entire area to be fully engulfed in flames, which rushed to the tops of the trees and burned over our heads. I was familiar with the term “inferno.” I had never been inside one.

Fortunately, our vehicle was parked where we could make a speedy getaway. We threw the kids into the seats, and drove away as fast as we could. I looked in the rearview mirror and watched the fire race faster than a man could run.

Oak Creekand Sedona are burning again, and it is with a still-vivid memory that I watch the news and hope for the best.

We fear the fire here. We can’t help it.