Fire Interrupts – A Washington Fire Story – part 3

Monday – August 24, 2015

We celebrated Grandpa’s birthday yesterday, it wasn’t technically his birthday, but we wanted to let him know we didn’t forget his 84th. This has been hardest on him. He’s been sleeping in a strange house, different bed, unfamiliar surroundings. He’s from the older generation that even if you tell him to make himself at home, he wont. Peggy generously took him in without thought of herself. She’s an angel! (I hope she’s reading this, so I can get some brownie points). Yet, even with all the changes, he is so blessed. I got a call from an 84-year-old lady who was in assisted living, but has been moved to a shelter and says she needs to get out because they have pets and smoking and it’s making her sick. She thought she had a rental but she couldn’t afford the security deposit. She said she doesn’t want to go to a nursing home yet, because she still likes to clean and cook for herself. It breaks my heart, but I can’t take her home with us, because we have a pet and no electricity ourselves!

The PUD has been working furiously getting the electricity back on. They put up two new poles outside our house in a few hours. I watched as a PUD worker carefully took down the old still burning post. The wires were bouncing up and down and he was dropping the burned up parts. It seemed dangerous.

pud guy working on pole

I’m so thankful for how hard they’ve been working. Mom told me the PUD guys said the people who see the fire devastation around their homes are understanding, but the people who are out of electricity and the fire hasn’t neared their homes are not as understanding, wondering what the problem is and why they don’t have electricity. If you have been blessed enough to not have your home or property damaged by the fire please be kind and patient with the PUD and other service providers. There is a lot of damage and they are working in extremely poor air quality!

Marc told me he read online that one of the health organizations has been posting the air quality in the fire zones. They measure air quality in four colors; green, yellow, orange and red. Omak has a black dot, because the air quality is so poor it is not even on their scale! So please be patient and extra thankful for all those people out working in it.

At 10:01 a.m. I am surprised by a phone call on our landline! I thought it would be out for a long time. It’s the clinic. The doctor wants to see Grandpa, because he had a doctor’s appointment that was cancelled because of the fires. He was picked to come in off the waiting list! Yet another blessing.

Today I’m home alone. Mom went down to visit Gramps at Peggy’s and Marc and Dad went to work on a house, so they left me and Ava (the dog) to guard the place. Marc read on Facebook (so that means it’s not verified) that there is a white van with two men posing as firemen riding around robbing/looting houses. So later when he called me and I told him the white PUD trucks were working at the end of the driveway he told me to make sure all the doors are locked and I’m wearing my gun. He’s sometimes a little over protective, however, I assured him it really was the PUD and there was nothing to worry about.

6:06 pm – two vehicles come down the driveway. A lady knocks on the door and I run outside as she is walking around the edge of the house looking for another door. I say, “hello.” She says “I am with the volunteers and do you need any water or toilet tissue.” I say “Thank you, but we don’t need anything.” She tells me the PUD is around the house. I tell her I know they have been working hard and fast. She seems quick to exit. It occurs to me that the gun on my hip might be intimidating, although she was probably just busy, this is Okanogan County after all. I admit to being a little suspicious of them, but then I feel ashamed. I don’t want to be the kind of person that suspects kind volunteers of nefarious plans. I feel like a bad person. The sad truth remains that in emergencies even kindness becomes suspect.

There is a sense of relief that comes with everything around us being burned already. I don’t worry about fire overtaking us in the night, because, well, there is nothing left to burn. Last night after it got dark, I saw hot spots lighting up the hill. These hot spots are no threat now, because there is no fuel for them to go anywhere, but it is a reminder that just a few days ago, fire covered that mountain!

Tuesday – August 25, 2015

I wake up with a sore throat and heavy feeling in my lungs. The sounds I hear are two generators humming along, burning $30 to $40 worth of gas each, per day. The smell in my nose is smoke. It wafts off our clothes when we move around and it fills the area when we open a door. My eyes see dirt, ashes and black burned up trees that will likely die and fall over soon, amidst a thick white smoke that fills the valley behind our house every morning.

I eat, but feel sicker after I eat. I drive into town because I have several errands and some work I need to take care of. I want to go to the library, but put it off because by the time I finish everything else I’m tired of being out in the smoke.

Most of the day is spent reading, watching TV, working on my goals. I return work calls, but the toxic air is putting a stop to other jobs I need to get done. I pray for rain and now for the smoke to lift, because we might be out of danger but the fire is still burning elsewhere.

Around 2:06 p.m. I notice the smoke is lifting. I can see the whole hill behind our house! It’s been covered with smoke for days! I read online that the smoke is supposed to be lifting in our area, but I haven’t seen any evidence of it until right now! That is good news!

burnt hill

In what seems like fresher air, Marc and Dad walk around the property to check for hot spots and just look around and they see a huge brown bear and two cubs! There is a pond on the property with greenery around it that didn’t get burned, so that’s likely where all the animals are going to go. Even amid tragedy life still flourishes. God cares about the animals too. Marc took a picture of a big bear track. But since it doesn’t look that clear to me, I’m hoping it’s Sasquatch.

bear track

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