Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hard Day in the Okanogan

When I went outside Wednesday morning the smoke was thick. There are many fires burning all around us, and they're growing in extent and potency.

I couldn't go to the lake. I had things I needed to do. My responsibilities took me to Omak, 25 miles to the south. While I was there news came of immediate evacuation orders for two towns to the southwest of Omak. A town to the west had already been evacuated.

Then came news of the deaths this afternoon of three firefighters. Four others were critically injured. They had been surrounded by flames and had to shelter in place. It's a miracle four survived.

On the way home I drove under the smoke plume of one of the fires in the Okanogan Complex fire. This is the same fire I have photographed from the other side at Fish Lake. Now I was on its leading edge as it continued to grow and move south and east. I stopped along the highway to take some photos.

I pulled off on the road I usually take up to Trout Lake. This is what it looked like Monday.

This is what it looked like Wednesday. All the homes and ranches up along the road have been evacuated.

I drove on north and pulled off on a road that goes into a housing subdivision to take a few more photos.

Shortly after I got home more evacuation notices began to go out. The housing subdivision was in imminent danger, and people fled. Some friends of ours who live there are sheltering in Omak tonight. Then a small town five miles north of Omak was evacuated This fire from the northwest and another fire from the east had it surrounded. Then it was Omak Flats, an area of homes and ranches just north of Omak proper. Then the highway was shut down.

Our home is safe for the time being. The fires have been moving south, away from us and toward Omak. The weather calls for a cold front moving through tomorrow, with windy conditions and a chance for lightning, so conditions could change quickly. The key element is what direction the wind will be blowing.

I'll be monitoring things for awhile tonight. Our daughter Lidia and grandson Sebastian live in Omak, and I want to make sure that when and if Omak is evacuated they get out safe and sound. If the highway is open, I'll be there to get them and bring them home. If the highway is still closed, it will just take me a little longer.

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