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Category Archives: wildfire

It’s fire season and once again we are getting no breaks. There is a large fire (Crescent Mountain) burning in the upper Twisp River that is causing great concern locally. So far, it has stayed away from homes but there is no containment on it. There are fires in southern British Columbia that are also burning out of control and when the wind is right, the smoke descends on us and fills the valley. These images are from last week when the visibility was better than it is now.

Weather has assisted fire fighters in the containment of the Twisp River Fire during the last few days. After a week of smothering smoke cloaking our valley, a couple of cold fronts passed through over the weekend, clearing the air with breezes and some rainfall. It’s a great relief. Yesterday brought blue skies and cool temperatures and a smoke-free atmosphere to the Methow. I hope the same thing is happening with the rest of the fire-ravaged landscape around the west.

Many homes in the Twisp River valley were saved by dedicated fire fighters. Our friends’ house is one of those. They live near the river and they asked me to come by to photograph their home and surroundings to preserve the memories of this event. Yesterday we joined them for a tour of their burned property. While much of the garden was burned, there is still food to salvage. The tomatoes, despite their scorched skin are still good on the inside! Corn cooked on the stalk tastes like corn cooked on the grill. Rhubarb is already coming back and the zucchini plant has new blossoms! This garden is a fire survivor!

Last year we were some of the fire survivors. This year, with the devastating fires in North Central Washington, there are many more fire survivors.

If you follow the news, you have probably seen my little town’s name featured the last few days. A human-caused fire started just a few miles from Twisp and rapidly burned some houses and took the lives of three fire fighters. It’s been an enormous tragedy.

We evacuated for two days while the fire behavior and wind were erratic and there was a possibility it could come over the ridge to our house. Luckily for us, it did not. The fire line is about a mile and a half away, as the raven flies. We returned, even though the whole valley was on level 3 evacuation notice, to see what was going on and to make our place safer. We keep our bags packed in case we need to flee again. Friday evening we went to Patterson Lake and watched the aerial fight to slow down the fire’s approach to a forested neighborhood. The pilots flying these planes are tremendously courageous to do what they do. Who ever imagined that DC10’s would be used for fire suppression? In addition to the big jets there are at least four small planes that can fly across a lake’s surface and suck water into pontoons to be dropped on the burning fire. There have been a wide variety of helicopters and other planes in use also.

The last couple of days there has been some cooler weather, holding the smoke close to the ground smothering most of Washington and grounding the aircraft. This does help the fire fighters on the ground because it also slows down the progress of the fire. When it warms up again and they can see the landscape, hopefully they will see a fire that can be contained.

And this is just one of the smaller fires that are consuming the landscape of our region. The Okanogan fires are much larger and threatening more homes.

Here is an article about the aircraft used in fire suppression.

We drove up Lester Road and walked to Campbell Lake yesterday. This is an area that burned in the Cougar Flats Fire, part of the immense Carlton Complex of wildfires started by lightning last month. This is the fire we could see from our house. Photos of it burning are here. We got home just as the next big rain storm with thunder and lightning was beginning.

We were trying to find a new sense of normalcy after the big fires began to lay down within their containment lines. Last Friday MA  and I picked apricots and went to lunch and played with our dogs. I returned home to get back to work processing wedding photos.

Fifteen minutes later a neighbor was here telling me we have to evacuate.  There was a fire on the next road. I could see the thick black smoke column roaring in our direction. I threw a few things in the truck and loaded the dogs. The sheriff sped into our driveway and told me to go! Now! A woman was with him and I asked her to drive my car down to the highway.

There we sat and watched as our hillside turned into an inferno and fire trucks raced up the hill. The temperature was already 100 degrees. My phone buzzed with calls and messages. Where was I? People could see it from across the valley. A dozen helicopters were in the air. We had glimpses of them through the smoke. A friend who could see it called to say it didn’t look good for our house but the helicopters were still dumping water there. Emergency workers told everyone to leave that area and go somewhere safer. There were lots of vehicles clogging the road with people taking pictures and staring.

In Winthrop I was finally able to call Ken and tell him we might have lost our house. The dogs stayed pretty calm despite the heat and chaos. I got them in the river to cool off. Our friend across the valley called to say the smoke cleared and our house was still standing! Oh my gosh. I could hardly believe it.

We stayed with those friends that night. Another couple was there whose home burned in the big fire. We watched as fire fighters on the ground and in the air continued to work the fire and a DC 10 poured a long line of retardant across the top of it to prevent it moving to the west. We also saw homes of our neighbors burn to the ground.
Saturday morning the fire was calm and we returned to our home – an island in a sea of burned landscape.

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