The forest fires here in Ferry County and neighboring Okanogan County this summer have given a new meaning to those song lyrics. We all thought last summer was horrible, setting state records for large, destructive wildfires. This year makes the last seem almost timid, as if it was holding its breath waiting to unleash bigger and badder (it’s a word now) fire experiences.
Homes, property, and livestock were devoured by flames. Precious, courageous lives were lost.
Most of August we were at Level 1 evacuation; for a couple days it was Level 2. Just when we thought the threat to our place itself was over (unless a new fire started), the fire flared up again in another spot, creeping closer, keeping us on our toes.
At one point we were just about surrounded by fires. If we needed to evacuate there was only one way out… through Canada.
And then a fire south of town sparked. Our town… Republic. The evacuation levels began posting. The smoke increased. The Red Cross shelter at the school was moved. The county fair was canceled. The evacuation zone kept marching northward.
The choking smoke just about did us in. Many left the area for clearer skies, which were somewhat difficult to find in the state. For days we couldn’t see any more than 1/8 mile, and even that was very hazy. Ash came down like snow flurries; some was large enough to identify it was from pine needles or the leaf of a certain plant. When one has animals to care for one has to stick it out longer than others normally might.
They are mighty smart though, animals. They know that the best thing to do is stay calm and quiet. But it was still hard on them. Even the deer seemed dazed and confused.
And then rain came… blessed rain… to clear the air, help quench the fires, and give the nerves of one and all a much needed rest. We could sigh in relief, without coughing.
We were told wildfire wouldn’t cease being a danger this year until the snows fall and the burning areas will not be extinguished until the snows stay. There has never been a time that I’ve wished for snow so hard, even an early winter.
These are definitely times you find out who the honest-to-goodness good neighbors are. We are thankful for the group we have! We were welcomed into their homes to sleep and rest our lungs without smoke, shower when our usual summer source (the state park) was shut down due to conditions, kept us apprised of the latest updates from the various websites or what they could see out their windows, and offered us and our animals a refuge if need be. We cannot say “Thank You!” enough!!!
To all the fire crews who came from as far away as Australia, Oregon, Colorado, Utah and here in Washington, and to their families- words cannot begin to express our gratitude for keeping us as safe as possible.