I was on my office phone last Thursday when I spotted the first of the smoke, drifting over town on the wings of a 40-mile-per-hour southeast wind.

Within minutes the smoke grew black and billowing, and I knew it was bad news. With winds like that, gusting to 60mph, no fire is intentional. I wouldn't know for hours that the blaze hit very close to home--literally. It was my neighbor's barn, torched when a power pole snapped in the stiff wind. The old barn was consumed in minutes. It was all volunteer firefighters could do to contain the blaze to the structure and prevent it from catching the dry prairie, including my fields and pasture.

The loss of the barn reminded me of the awful power of flame, but also that we are entering fire season. There's nothing that will ruin your day like a wildfire, especially if it happens where you live or where you plan to hunt. Check out the National Interagency Fire Center's daily update of wildland fires around the nation, their size and status.

Here is another photo from the conflagration.

Interestingly, the hot spots of the nation right now aren't Western forests so much as hardwoods of Virginia, Tennessee and southern Missouri as well as portions of Oklahoma. We'll get our turn, but here's one site that will help you chart the change from greening spring to drying summer.