Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fire in the Valley

I heard something on NPR this morning that startled me:  the report of major fires surrounding Lake Chelan, in Washington state.  Why did that startle me?  Half of the west coast is on fire.

It startled me because I've been there.  In 2006, my husband and I drove to Chelan, WA to see what it was like, and to stay in a tiny resort called Stehekin.  I still have a T-shirt from Stehekin.  The trip was memorable for a number of reasons, mainly because a forest fire broke out just downwind of Stehekin, the day we arrived.  I wrote that whole experience up, with photos, in 2011:   The Flick Creek Fire

This afternoon I thought I'd look the fires up and see how bad it was - it looks bad.  I remember the area as bone dry in 2006 (when we were also having a heat wave); it's on what Washingtonians call "the dry side", east of the Cascades, which block rain coming from the Pacific.  Here's the official account, from a local TV station:

Wildfires raging near Chelan destroy homes

There are 5 active fires, 3 of them quite large.  The map below will dump you into an everything map (frankly it looks like much of both northern Washington and south and east Oregon is on fire).  Use the plus key to zoom in - you're looking for the group of fires north and west of the big empty area around Moses Lake.  The key fires are the Reach, First Creek, and Antoine Creek fires.  Squaw Canyon and Black Canyon are relatively minor but the Wolverine fire is huge, although it seems to be under control.  The northern tip of the Wolverine fire is right across the lake from Stehekin.  All these fires were started by lightning strikes.

Map of fires near Chelan

There's very little "there" there around Lake Chelan.  This undoubtedly looks worse than it is, but if you happen to live in that wilderness, evacuation could be a problem. There aren't roads, to speak of; if you want to go to town from the area around Lake Chelan, you take a boat, or a helicopter if you're rich. The official account from, the local TV station, sounds as though the firefighters have it pretty well under control, but there's a long list of evacuation and road closure information.  I trust they get it under control.

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