By Sally Gracie
This Monday afternoon, as I passed the two-mile marker up Texas Creek road, I began to see the first real signs of recovery from the two wildfires that burned there two months ago. Chad and Sheree Stoothoff’s house, perched high above the road to the right, is surrounded by greening land.
From the vantage of their place, Sheree and I looked down on the properties of her three closest neighbors: her in-laws, Pete and Donna Stoothoff; Sybil Macapia; and Yogi and Robin Baire.
This little neighborhood came together during the fires — to protect homes, to evacuate horses, to update each other by phone about the fires’ status. The first fire, which started on July 14, crested the ridge towards Texas Creek from Stokes road, and burned much of the (combined) 56 acres of the two Stoothoff families and about 80 per cent of Sybil’s 100-plus acres. But not their houses. The second fire, which came up from the base of Texas Creek road, destroyed Robin and Yogi’s house. Sybil lost additional land in that fire.
The fires were capricious in Texas Creek as they were elsewhere in the valley. One stretch along the creek bed burned; then, the fire hopscotched to another area. The hay next to the senior Stoothoffs’ barn burned, and the barn itself was left unscathed. The fire burned down his family’s house but left Eagle Baire’s truck cab like a beached, white whale on the ground.
Heroic work was done by firefighters on the ground and in the air. Some of the outcomes of the fires were also due to the hard work that the two Stoothoff families had done long before the fires began. Sybil believes that it was the “good husbandry of the land” by the Stoothoffs as much as luck that saved her house when the second fire came up the creek bed.
Days after firefighters had subdued the fires, a fearsome storm of ash came over the same ridge that brought the first fire. (Sheree documented the fires and ash storm on video on her Facebook wall.) When the rains came to flood and destroy property in other parts of the valley, they acted as a cleansing agent for the Stoothoffs’ part of Texas Creek road. As for inside their house, Sheree says it will take her a while longer to remove signs of fire and ash storms.
Sheree has been busy canning the harvest of their vegetable garden, which fire, ash and rain could not destroy. They lost only the tomatoes when the garden went unwatered for a week.
Robin and Yogi have begun the restoration of their property and will build a new house there. “I’m attached to that chunk of land,” Robin says. She and Yogi, their two horses and a donkey are renting a house out Twisp River. Each time Robin returns to Texas Creek, she notices new signs of life. Elderberry is coming back, and even sage is growing from the plants that burned, she says.
Thanks to the generosity of Labor Day Weekend Book Sale shoppers, Twisp Library Friends has donated $550 for fire recovery to local and regional nonprofits. Prices for books were cut in half to encourage book lovers to make up for their savings by donating to the fire recovery cause. The money was distributed as follows: 50 percent to The Cove, 30 percent to Room One, and 20 percent to the Community Foundation of North Central Washington.