A lightning storm Saturday night started a slew of brush and wildfires in Central Washington. The midwest has tornadoes, the coast has hurricanes and we have fires; it’s part of living here.
But the only time I remember them being this close to town was the one that burned my sister’s home and twenty others to the ground two decades ago. That one was started by some kids playing with matches in the foothills behind her house on a very windy day. My sister and two youngest nieces barely got out with their lives as the fire barreled down the hill and erupted as embers hit covenant required cedar shake roofs. I’ll never forget walking in my mom’s house to find my then 2-year-old niece obliviously playing by the fireplace and safe (aqua t-shirt, diaper, flaming red hair), my sister knowing for sure their house was gone when she called and didn’t get a dial tone and getting to see me genius brother-in-law pull the diamond from her ring out of the rubble.
I still shudder to think of how close we came to losing them. We’re so grateful no one lost their lives, and yes, it’s just stuff. But the tragedy of losing the home you’ve built, physically and figuratively is indeed traumatic and life-altering.
I’m always amazed at how rarely we lose life and property. In this case there’s warning, so everyone who needs to evacuate is ready to go at this point. So far we’ve lost a barn, but hundreds of homes remain in danger and there are fires which haven’t even been responded to yet.
We live in a pretty great community. Individuals are reaching out to help the displaced and businesses are comping the fire crews and evacuees, including a yoga studio and, most importantly, a downtown pub.
It’s smoky, especially since the winds died down a few days ago. It’s not healthy, but I guess I prefer it to weather that would fuel the fire even more. Not everyone sees it that way, but our entire region is on fire and we’ve lost a barn. I’m stoked… so to speak.