The picture doesn’t do it justice. Taken with a crappy phone as the rush was on to pack up and evacuate it appears to show a small plume from the wildfire up the Twisp river road in Washington state. In fact it was a massive inferno that claimed the lives of three firefighters and was only controlled by a rapid and comprehensive suppression effort involving many aircraft and a large army of firefighters in hundreds of vehicles in a swift initial response. A 747 dropping retardant was successful in quenching a large portion of the blaze, which became a huge fire in no time, reportedly ignited from a structure fire. The editor for the Yellow Press was on the scene, visiting the area when the blaze broke out. The days prior apocalyptic views of another fire, the Lake Chelan blaze, filled the eastern horizon and as winds shifted the skies became so dense with smoke even the nearby hillside were obscured. The editor had been outside and appreciating a change in the wind that was clearing some of the smoke out when it was noticed that a large plume was developing to the north. Hastily putting things away and closing up the buildings a careful watch was kept on the constantly increasing fire. The smoke ranged from a deep brown to reddish orange and paper white and rose in tumultuous columns that billowed skyward and bent into a wide band that filled the sky and blocked the sun. Evacuation of the towns of Twisp, Winthrop and the surrounding areas clogged the highways and left the towns vacant save the swarms of emergency response vehicles racing to hotspots. The smoke was eerie, blocking the view, choking the lungs and stinging the eyes. Driving for a hundred and fifty miles southeast hasn’t found clear skies and the mornings sunrise wasn’t evident until the dim orange disk was several hands above the horizon. In Spokane, on the eastern border of the state the sky is dark and somber and would look like rain was imminent but for the sting in the nose and haze between buildings.
The west is ablaze and looking at a fire incident map one can see several large blazes and hundreds more reported fires. This editor is driving east through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and will post updates.
Update 8/20/15 – The Twisp fire exploded from about 1500 acres to 16,000 acres over the night of the 19th, our hopes and best wishes are with all those affected. The editor has encountered smoky skies for most of the day driving east. Even as far as Hamilton, Montana the shy has been choked with smoke with one brief respite in the town of Wallace, Idaho. Though smack in the Bitterroot valley no views of the peaks surrounding where the river runs it course and little can be see but the tall cottonwoods bending in the smoke laden wind.