It has been an unprecedented year for wildfires. The drought has made everything tinder dry and the heat has created lightning storms, and as a result, conditions are extremely favorable for wildfires.
Wildfires are really scary things. When we lived in Yakima, we almost got overtaken by the approaching flames of the Rimrock Lake Fire while just driving in the countryside. That same year, the Taylor Bridge Fire east of Cle Elum blackened the country side and destroyed several homes. Last year, the Brewster-Pateros Fire destroyed the ranch/camp belonging to the family of one of my best friends, which was heartbreaking on a number of levels. It seems that each year, fire season gets longer and longer, and fires become more destructive. So it’s obviously scary to have them so close.
For those of you who have never experienced anything like this, it’s hard to describe. The acrid smell of smoke is constant, only growing stronger as the flames approach, but almost imperceptibly. Colors disappear. The sky becomes a monochrome of yellow-brown, the sun a hellish red. Shadows lengthen and turn a strange bluish-purple color. For those of us near, but not immediately by the fire zone, animals start to appear where you don’t expect them — deer and turkeys, of course, which are ubiquitous anyway, but bigger predators show up on the property too. We’ve seen a lot more bear poop recently, and we can hear more coyotes than usual singing in the field. Who knows what else is out there.
To give a clearer picture of how many fires are out there, check out this picture below. Every blue pin is an active fire as of 8/17/2015. (You can view a constantly updating map at WA WildCAD Incidents.) We are in the upper northeast corner of Washington State. There are a lot of fires.
I spend a lot of time following various groups on Facebook, which seems to be where the newest information goes first. Another really good resource in Northwest Fires, which usually has the latest info on briefings as well as which scanner frequencies to listen to, what donations are needed by the fire crews, and so on. And in the meantime, we are on standby. The fires are not close enough for us to need to evacuate, but just as a regular practice, it’s a good idea to prepare for anything.
I’ll wrap this up with some pictures of the aftermath of a nearby fire that I took last night.
Here’s where this particular fire probably started. The stumps will probably be smoldering well into autumn.
These aren’t cattle or horses. They’re deer that have fled the forest.
Here’s a big buck who was completely unfazed by my presence.
And finally, while I hate the fires, I have to admit that they give us really pretty sunsets.