When the smoke is in your eyes it blurs your vision.
No one wanted this fire. No one. Yet, we are not the only ones with burning trees, blackened wasteland, smoldering embers, and soot covering everything. I knew there were other fires. Everyone has heard about the fires in California and recently we have become aware of fires in Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and Montana. Yet, there are more than that.
I wasn’t aware of all these others for the immediacy of our own and I wouldn’t expect others to be aware of our crisis as they battle their very own.
As I sit in Dallas, TX so far removed from all of the rush of actions and perpetual surge of adrenaline, I not only feel helpless, but I cannot get the folks at home off of my mind so I have been researching, a luxury that was not afforded us between now and 10 days ago. What I find is not a pretty sight. As a matter of fact, it is devastation, everywhere, in some places worse than at home. Don’t get me wrong. While still in the airport nearly everytime a radio crackled I grab at my nonexistent chest strap to listen and could swear that I smelled smoke…it was actually all there in my mind.
In the trenches you only know your enemy, you don’t know about other people’s enemy. Well, this evening we see the big picture.
In the picture above you can see the smoke rising from these states and small red circles denoting the perimeters of the fire(s). There are a lot of fires and some of them are big, very big. The drive to Boise last night took us through 3-4 fire zones just on Highway 95. Then there is the Soda Fire south of Boise/Nampa area. While the Clearwater Complex is large and likely threatens more structures its size at 64,150 acres (@10:00pm PST) comes in a distant 2nd place to the Soda Fire at 283,686 acres.
This is just in Idaho. There is the fire in Chelan that rivals Kamiah for residential damage at 69,445 acres and has destroyed 56 structures. This fire is burning right in the middle of their living space just as ours.
The list goes on and on.
Again, it is doubtful that each one of us will know what other people are facing or have faced all over the Western United States until the smoke quite literally clears and the last coal winks out its final attempt at burning down the world around our ears. Then we will have the time to look around and see what everyone has gone through.
My objective from the beginning has been to capture the event as it unfolded with all of its raw emotion, spatial and sensory details as much as possible. You will see errors, rumors, suppositions, as well as reality and truth that will never been covered by the traditional media outlets. I do not attempt to hide my mistakes in covering this only correct them. You can see the variations in posts, etc. This is a minuscule example of the cascade of hourly crisis and rumors that fly like sparks onto dry grass only too ready to blaze up and start another ‘fire’. It has been my desire to weed these out by phone calls, text messages, and face to face verifications. Nonetheless, some slip through. That’s a part of trying to report with smoke in your eyes.
Let me also close by saying this; what happened today on the Shenandoah/Kidder/Woodland fire turned the tide of public opinion in favor of our firefighters. It was exemplary and appreciated. Some of their methods are beyond me, but, as I said, I don’t know what they know. I think what happened today convinced many people that we are all on the same page…we want the fires out! Completely…
Thanks to everyone who is following this blog and my attempt at chronicling this life-changing event for our community. Thanks to all of the inter-agency firefighters who are doing what they can against the ‘Beast’ of the Clearwater Complex…and thanks to circumstances that have taken me over a 1,000 miles away to give me a fresh perspective.
Have a good night!