Off-the-wallBy Bob Spiwak

Aug. 1 and 2 will be memorable days for many people, many reasons. A group of local pilots flying back from the annual fly-in at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in Dr. O’Keefe’s big Lockheed could not get any response on the open frequency and with no radio instructions had to land at the state airport between Twisp and Winthrop during Temporary Flight Restrictions.

“It was a masterful landing, as the pilot had to thread down the runway with obstructions on both sides,” said one of the passengers. Across the highway, the flames of the Rising Eagle Road Fire were much in evidence.

At Rover’s Ranch, which was under evacuation, a parade of six cars carried dogs being boarded there, we are told, to the Methow Valley Ciderhouse on East Chewuch Road. The entourage also included a parrot.

Outside of Brewster, I came in from 18 holes of golf at the new Bamble Sands golf course and before even exiting the cart was advised by two staffers that Ms. Gloria had called to tell me there were new fires and the road was closed to Winthrop. I called her on the mobile phone and the situation was clarified. Road closed Winthrop to Twsip, and the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside road might possibly be open. It was, albeit crowded with traffic.

Saturday, the second day, in a smoky environment here in West Boesel, Ms. Gloria called from the Winthrop library, where she was working, to report the power was out. We still had electricity here. That was at 2 p.m. Twenty minutes later, as the clouds thickened and thunder had been grumbling, the first significant thunderclap and lightning were here. Six seconds between the two. I always count duration between, and most of these ranged from three to 10 seconds. While there are variables of temperature and humidity, that distance between the lightning and thunder, on average is 1,200 feet per second.

The rain began at 2:20 p.m. and quit at 2:35 p.m., then resumed lightly at 2:40 p.m. At 3:02 p.m., the Mazama station fire truck headed east with sirens blaring, and at 3:07 p.m. it had reversed direction and came through West Boesel. At 4 p.m., neighbor Mary Lockman came over and pointed out the fire on Virginia Ridge across Highway 20 and well up the ridge.

Sunday was a day of watching the helicopters dousing the fire. The word we got was that there were five smokejumpers who were directing the water dumps. At one point I counted, through the binoculars, five separate blazes, most headed for what we see as the summit of the ridge, and a couple headed downward, this at 10:15 p.m. Thunderhead clouds were beginning to coalesce to the west, and even more spectacularly over the Rendezvous area.

It is 10:35 a.m. Monday, the whirlybirds are back, and it’s time to grab the binoculars and camera and head off to our vantage point.