For the last 10 days?, the communities of the central and lower Methow Valley have been struggling to save their land and homes in the middle of a firestorm of epic proportions. Last monday two lightening strikes started fires within 2 miles of our home on Libby Creek in north central Washington. I drove down to see what was going on when I saw the smoke from our patio and saw one small fire in the timber just north of Gold Creek, and another fire across the river and in the hills above the old Judd Ranch. The firefighters went in right away to put them out with hand crews, but within a short period of time the fires were raging and moving fast, gobbling up all the dry fuels and spreading as the wind blew embers into new areas. I can not even put into words the devastation and shock which has gripped our community in the last 10 days. This fire has become the biggest fire in known Washington state fire history, I believe the current size of the fire is over 300,000 acres. Hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed, beautiful creek drainages blackened to moonscapes, and who knows how many animals domestic and wild have fallen victim to the flames.
Our entire community here in the Methow Valley has been without power or most communications for most of this time, I can’t remember exactly when the power lines were shut down due to burning transmission and distribution lines but since then it has been a challenge to have access to water, refrigeration and contact with the outside world. Thankfully yesterday power was restored to the main towns of Twisp and Winthrop and some of the unincorporated less impacted communities, which will help normalize our shared situation. It has been interesting to hear the roar of generators EVERYWHERE day and night, but wonderful to have night skys so dark and dramatic with the evening show of the Milky Way and hot spots glowing in the hills around us.
Currently the weather has changed and we are not in immediate danger, but remain on high alert for changing conditions. Our community members are pulling together and with the assistance of national relief organizations we are finally getting some help from the outside world to help take care of our displaced and un or under insured fire victims. It will be many years of pulling together with mutual assistance to fully recover from the fire destruction, but I believe this community, with the help of national and local involvement and resources will rise like a Phoenix out of the ashes with more resiliency and deeper human connections as a result.
This is the letter I am sending out to my personal network asking for support for our rural community to have a full recovery and rebuilding of our human and ecosystem community:
To all friends of the Methow Valley and it’s communities:
We have been, as a community, operating in extreme fire danger conditions. At one point I looked around me from our friends place on the river south of Twisp (evacuation place), in the early evening, with the winds roaring and fires raging to the north, northeast, east, southeast, south and southwest. Plumes of fire cumulonimbus clouds spiking up 30 to 50 thousand feet, homes and gardens, barns, and livestock burning as the fire moved through the creek drainages.
There have been so many losses, even with the heroic efforts of some fire personnel, Shout out to the ‘Libby Creek Protectors” who held the northwest fire line at our road, for 5 0r 6 days in the worst of the extreme fire conditions (and they did not lose one permanent home). Many homeowners stayed at their properties and protected, or tried to save their homes and outbuildings, homesteads from burning, many of those homes did survive and would not have if the owners had left. Some homes were saved the first, and second time the fire went through a drainage, but lost on the third time through…..(Robin and Yogi’s on Texas Creek for example) Can you imagine how that was?? They seem to be okay now though even with losing everything except animals and vehicles, but thank goodness they had insurance and are planning on rebuilding and staying in the community. Our dear friends up Cow Creek, alone and with no help in the middle of one of the really intense drainage burns, fought the fire with shovels and minimal water for 2+ days and nights, and saved most of their homestead. If they had not stayed I am sure they would of lost everything, 30+ years of time, energy, love and investment up in smoke. Thankfully they survived with their lives and only lost a few out buildings and half the orchard. But they have a big job ahead, like everyone else in these burned unincorporated communities. Cleaning up the mess, starting from scratch in some cases, restoring the land as well as the improvements, in the middle of a moonscape with blackened skeleton trees. I can not even imagine how that must feel.
Unfortunately, I am saddened to say, many people lost their homes and more lost their land improvement and the beauty of their Place, for the short term. Many people will probably give up and not rebuild in the burn zones, but more will choose to stay and rebuild their homesteads and lives, helping to care for the lands healing as well as their own and their neighbors.
I believe, as do many here, that is our duty, our dharma, to assist in the process of rebuilding these communities as much as we can, as caring individuals, private and public organizations. Taking help from everywhere we can to fund and actualize a full recovery of our beautiful and LOVED communities.
Currently the emergency relief agencies are still in town attempting to be useful and supportive and have been effective in caring for the immediate needs of some of our people, in the towns. ( Regarding the Red Cross: mostly I have found them to be really nice people but totally unorganized and besides offering questionable food ( mystery white substances) and a few shelter beds, ineffective. I believe if you are financially giving to support our recovery as a community, it is best to give to a local organization, the Red Cross will take the money for here and spend it at some other place.) Please give to our local Caring for People and Community organizations, so the money stays here and rebuilds our wracked economy as well as homes and fences. I have found that our local service organizations and individuals have been much more effective at actually getting the stuff and support we need to the people. The CBC group, with Pam Floyd in a leadership position has been incredible at tracking down everything we need from diapers, to pasture, to housing, to generators, showers, food, water, etc. Shout out to all you fine folks who worked out of the CBC relief center, supporting others like The Local Church in Carlton who served an underserved population in the middle of the danger zones, day after day with love and caring. And our women’s leadership group out of Carlton, Carlton Complex Assistance Network, www.ccanrelief.org, has been working to assess the immediate needs of our people in the unincorporated areas and fill them pronto. We are also thinking about our common future and setting up a structure to help everyone who wants to stay and rebuild have access to the resources they need to make that happen.
With the weather change for a couple of days, wet and cool, we seem to be out of immanent danger for the time being. Unfortunately, it seems we in the western shrub steppe and forest communities are going to be facing a heightened risk of devastating fires. Hea,t and the lightening that that brings in in the summer months, increases as the oceans warm and evaporation rises, putting our communities more at risk then ever.
****** Many fire victims have no insurance and will need and accept help from our local and extended Methow family. Even people with insurance will have much to do to fully recover beyond what is covered.
****** This is a request for financial support for our long term community recovery to our extended Methow family/community. Together we can rebuild our devastated drainages and valley floor affected areas, stronger and more resilient and fire safe then ever.
C-CAN, based in Carlton is thinking long term and assessing and partnering with all agencies and services to get our neighbors what they need for full recovery. Your contributions will support the short, mid and long term recovery of our community. Visit our web page to donate funds or contact us with any questions or services or materials you have to offer for the benefit of others. (Locals, we could sure use some help getting better organized and effective with all the data and needs we are gathering, if you can help with that or want to participate in this local activist recovery project in other ways, please call us. This will take ALL of us who love our Place, working together to accomplish.
Thank you for caring and partnering in this huge project of recovery and resilience. ( The ‘big gun’ relief agencies, who work big disasters say the thing that makes a difference in the effectiveness of recovery efforts is the strength of community action and activists, so let’s do this thing together. All hands on deck!!!!
If you do not feel comfortable giving to a new local women’s activist group like ours, then please give to Room One or The Cove to help the folks who are their clients and been adversely affected by this firestorm.
We are grateful for all of our extended family and friends of the Methow, who have and will continue to support our recovery efforts……….
With love, and the power back on for some, let’s get to work!
Mich on Libby Creek
If you believe in and want to support a local Phoenix rising, people powered movement, please do. And we are so grateful for everyone who has given of themselves so far.
I hope to be returning to regular posting of Highest Good News, now that the internet and power are returning. Thank you for your patience during my summer of extremes………