You truly never know how tested you are until everything changes, and your world flips, and what you thought to be true one moment is no longer true the next. It is at those times when you make your hardest choices and decide what matters most. I took these pictures in the Methow Valley in August 2014, when the world changed for some. (Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)
Following the hottest July ever in human recorded history on planet earth, the American west is having the greatest outbreak of wildfires since the great fires of 1910, which ravaged Montana, Idaho, and Washington state.
Fires are burning widely across my home state of Oregon, Washington, California, British Columbia, and Alaska. Three firefighters were killed on Aug. 19, fighting a blaze in the Methow Valley near Twisp–an area hammered by wildfires in 2014. There is major change taking place. This will involve how we plan for fire, build in fire zones, speculate for fast profits in pretty Western scenery (if you can afford that game), and consider what is safe.
Maybe the lessons will be forgotten. People, particularly wealthy people, will still want to live near the mountains and wild places where fires naturally occur, but with global warming patterns due to climate change, the ecosystem will be transformed more and more by big burns. We as a country cannot afford to purely protect all of the property here, particularly when the sacrifice is lost firefighters’ lives. Will it one day be left just to burn?
I took this picture about a week after fires ravaged the town of Pateros, in central Washington, again at the center of Washington’s complex of fires.
(Click on the picture to see a larger photograph on a separate picture page.)
I just completed a trip through some of the most impacted areas of central Washington, where the largest fires ever in the state have left a path of devastation and continued disruption. Okanogan County, a beautiful mountainous and a popular recreation area, was among the hardest hit. One fire alone, the Carlton Complex fire, burned more than 300,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. Charred remains of burned buildings can be seen from the roadside, not to mention hills turned black and brown. Thankfully, no one was directly killed. More than 25 helicopters remain deployed in the valley, and several thousand regional firefights continue to fight blazes in the county and now other areas of the state.
I will publish pictures of actual fire damage tomorrow, in Okanogan County and also in the town of Pateros, which lost more than a dozen homes to a fast-moving blaze in mid-July. I have never seen type of smoke cover we have now statewide as I saw the past few days throughout the entire state. (Click on each photo to see a large picture on a separate picture page.)