I'm writing this update for all of our concerned friends and family. The West is burning, and we are a part of that. Here is a video a friend took ten miles from our house:
We woke up to dense smoke filling our valley on Wednesday morning. Not knowing what was happening and thinking the smoke came from fires far away over the mountains, I took the kids to visit a friend half an hour West of our home. When we drove home, we saw this view in the East - a thick column of smoke from the direction of our house.
I knew about a fire in Newhalem that had been started by a lightning strike August 10. In fact, just three days prior, Eva and I had driven over there for a little hike. There were two small cylinders of smoke, and they had been contained, a ranger at the visitor's center told me. This is what it looked like three days ago - not too bad, but I was worried anyway.
Here is what this little wisp of smoke developed into on Wednesday, prompting the closure of Highway 20 and the evacuation of the towns of Newhalem, Diabolo, Ross Lake Resort, and several campgrounds.
It is heartbreaking. This fire has now grown into two separate beasts, one heading towards the town of Diabolo, and one going in the other direction. According to the news, the fire is approaching SCL's Skagit Hydroelectric Project. The fire is burning on the north side of Highway 20.
Today, Thursday, we drove up to Newhalem, which is ten miles away from us, to see if we could get any answers. Our usually very, very busy Highway is dead. No cars. No bicyclists. A sign seven miles from our house warns about the wildfire and low visibility due to smoke.
We couldn't get into Newhalem, because trucks blocked the Highway. One of our friends, who lives in Newhalem and is on the crew keeping the town safe, told us what he knows: the fire is very active and spreading - away from us, but spreading. Nobody knows what will happen - it will depend on the ever-shifting wind, and many other factors. Diabolo and Newhalem are ghost towns.
That's all I know for now. If I misreported anything, I'm sorry... things are chaotic, and information is hard to come by. We don't have TV, and the internet is not very forthcoming right now.
The most terrible thing is that on the other side of the mountains, 90 minutes away form us, wildfires are raging as well. It is very, very dry there, and fires are burning rampantly and out of control.
Three firefighters died yesterday while fighting the fires. Many, many houses have burnt down. We have several friends over there whom we can't reach. Everyone has been evacuated (Winthrop, Twisp). Highways are closed. Smoke is everywhere.
I can't complain about our situations since we don't seem to be threatened. The people over there have it much worse...
When I saw the growing column of smoke yesterday, I freaked out, not knowing if we were safe, wondering how to proceed. What do you take with you when you have to leave your home, knowing it will get devoured by flames? I would take my animals for sure. The goats could go in our minivan. But how do you transport four pigs that weigh 300 pounds each?
I am grateful for the firefighters who are working so hard, so relentlessly, risking their lives. Heroes, all of them.