Brower and Mary Burchill were hired last year as park rangers at Bandelier National Monument, N.M., where a fire has consumed thousands of acres.
Lawrence resident Brower Burchill doesn't need a television set to see the fire that has consumed thousands of acres of forest in New Mexico.
"The whole thing is very scary," said Burchill, a retired Kansas University professor and administrator serving as a park ranger at Bandelier National Monument, N.M.
"You look out at night and you see flames covering the entire horizon, left to right ... and you're scared."
Burchill, former biology professor and associate vice chancellor of academic affairs at KU, was hired last summer as ranger at the 33,000-acre national park west of Santa Fe, N.M.
His wife, Mary, also a retired KU faculty member, was hired as a park ranger at the same time. The couple served last year, then returned to their permanent residence in Lawrence.
Brower Burchill went back to Bandelier on April 1. When he arrived, he said, he learned that a severe lack of moisture had made the area ripe for fire.
"It's the driest I think it's ever been," he said.
Mary Burchill, who is scheduled to leave Lawrence for the park this week, said she heard about the blaze from her husband.
"We'd never been around anything like this, so we didn't know if we should be concerned or not," she said.
As of Monday, Brower Burchill had been out of harm's way. He said flames had not come near his quarters, and he had not been forced to enter parts of the park that are close to the fire.
But the couple continued to have worries. Among them: The threat to Los Alamos National Laboratory, where radioactive and explosive materials are stored.
"We would like to hope" that Los Alamos will be extremely well-protected, Mary Burchill said. "But you can't help but be a little worried about that."
Brower Burchill said the couple specifically requested assignments at Bandelier because they enjoyed the area.
As flames continued to move into the park on Monday, Brower Burchill worried that the fire might scar the area by destroying areas rich in historical artifacts.
He said the park contained canyons and mesas inhabited by Native Americans as far back as the 1200s.
"The scary thing is there are so many antiquities there that the fire is going to burn over," he said.