Monday, July 21, 2014

FIRESTORM IN THE METHOW VALLEY


A fiery inferno driven by 105 degree heat and twenty-mile an hour winds roared through the beautiful Methow Valley in Eastern Washington last week. My father-in-law’s orchard, which we call the Farm, is in the valley. It inspired my books AFTER THE RIVER THE SUN and EVA OF THE FARM.

My characters Eckhart and Eva loved the canyon behind the Farm. They discovered their friendship there and often met in their “Perilous Chapel” so named after the one in the Arthurian Legend. In last week’s fire, the canyon (pictured above) and all the hills around the farm, burned. 

At the end of AFTER THE RIVER THE SUN, Eckhart faces a terrible fire. Alas, that fiction became fact. 

On Thursday, my father-in-law received the Level Three evacuation order (Get Out Now). He could see flames burning 300 feet up the canyon. The entire southern horizon toward Pateros (the high school burned down and many houses) and Billy Goat Mountain was ablaze. The fire toppled the power lines feeding the valley. So my father-in-law could not rig irrigation lines (as Eckhart had) to try to save the house and buildings.

Miraculously, though only fifteen feet from the burning hill, the building housing the tractors survived. So did the house. The orchard, like most orchards, was so heavily irrigated it was only scorched around the edges. He was fortunate. People for twenty-five miles up and down the valley lost homes.

Now, four days later, a race is on to find a generator to power the irrigation, for the apple and pear trees will die in the summer heat without water (power may be out for weeks). This year’s crop is probably already lost.

My heart is saddened by such loss to a place that is sacred to me. And the fire , dubbed the Carelton Complex Fire, is still burning at the time of this posting. 

"The Carlton complex wildfire in Central Washington, which by Saturday evening had expanded to just over 215,000 acres, or about 336 square miles, is still blazing nearby."  The Seattle Times

Next spring, the black hills will green as grass grows around the black skeletons of the sagebrush, bitter brush, and ponderosa pine trees. But the devastation to the scenic beauty will take decades to recover.

 



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