Thursday, August 20, 2015

Terrible wild fires virtually in our backyard

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.


  1. Dear God....
    We went through something similar last year. Not as near, but still....
    What to do? What to take?
    Make sure your packed and set to go at a moment's notice, though. A briefcase with all insurance policies, id's and other valuables. A BOB (Bug Out Bag) for each of you and food and water for 24hrs at least.

    1. Thanks, Ron. Yes, it's a good idea to have everything ready to go. Phew.

  2. My heart goes out to you Corina, the families in the path of the fires, and the families of those poor firefighters.

    Keep us informed as you can.

  3. Here on the East Coast, we are hanging on to every bit of news, so thank you for taking the time to post all these photos. The fires are national news, but your photos show the highway and mountains we know personally from visiting Rosemary [Ranger at the Marblemount Wilderness Office]. You are all in our thoughts...indeed our hearts go out to you all. - from Rosemary's Mom

    1. Hello Rosemary's Mom,
      Thanks for dropping a note, and thanks for sending good thoughts!

  4. I sure know how you feel. Last year a fire started on the hill just above us about 4 miles away. It's terrifying. We have an evacuation plan. All my precious items are in baskets by the front door. (Not much for decor but tough S__T). Our animals cages are nearby and we can hook up the horse trailer in 10 minutes.

    In CA we have two good websites: Cal Fire and InciWeb. I wonder if you have an InciWeb for Washington. They are very good as they update with fire perimeter maps and publish evacuations and everything you need to know. If you haven't already I would look into what version of these websites they have in washington. If nothing else it may help allay your concern.

    1. Thanks, yes, we've been using the internet to find more info. But since there are all these massive fires on the Eastside of the Mountains, our smaller (but also serious one) gets no media attention...

  5. Thanks for the great photos and fire update. No TV here either. I live in the Whitehorse region of the Stilly valley, so if you find the need to bug out, I can help! Found your blog a few weeks ago and also am (was) a big fan of Ben Hewitt's blog. You guys rock!

    1. Awwww, thanks so much, Rick! How generous of you! Are you talking of the Stilly Valley where the Oso mudslide happened last year?

    2. We're 4 miles east of the slide

  6. I am thinking of your family, and all of the families affected by these fires and the terrible drought that continues to wreak havoc across the Western U.S.
    When I was in school (in Northern California), we were asked to sit and write a short essay about the things we would take with us in case of an emergency evacuation, such as a fire or flood. It was a surprisingly emotional paper to write, and I remember I ended up listing very little. Photographs, most loved books, and our animals.

    I hope so much that the fires are controlled soon, and that you continue to update us.

    1. I will definitely try to update everyone. It's hard to find info on the fire close to us. Resources are stretched very, very thin...


Click on the image to download my free ebook and to join my mailing list

Become a patron!!!

If you like our blog, please become a patron. What the heck does that mean? As a patron, you give us as little as $1 a month (or as much as $20 a month) to show your support and get exclusive, patron-only content from us. You will get tutorials, recipes, inspiration, and support from us, the homesteading, wilderness and homeschooling experts! You can cancel anytime!

Popular Posts