Walking down Glover Street last Saturday with his faithful canine companion Yoplait, John Doran seemed as if he hadn’t a care in the world. I pulled over and rolled down the window to find out how he was doing.
Walking D, the Doran ranch, survived the fire as it drove towards town. John says he is more than grateful for the skill of smokejumpers and hotshot teams who prevented the fire from reaching his home and horses and the highway. High relative humidity also helped slow the fire, John said. Eighty percent of the trees survived as 300 of the 650 acres of the ranch “burned over.” Yoplait stood her ground beside some of the firefighters as they attacked the blaze.
Jacob Arthur Zachariah Curtis is the “summer fire baby” who becomes a part of Charlie and Becky Curtis’s crew. Born on Aug. 8 at home, weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces, Jacob was delivered by Blue Bradley. He joins Abel (13), Ilo (10), Isabella (8) and Luke (4).
Charlie, engine boss for Loup Loup Meadow Wildfire, returned from the Chelan fires in time for Jacob’s arrival and stayed at home for five days after with his family. Jacob, Becky says, is “destined to become a firefighter” like his dad.
Charlie, Becky says, loves the culture of firefighting. He quit California Polytechnic at 20 to become a part of the U.S. Forest Service. Eventually he left that job so the family could move from Leavenworth to the Methow Valley, but he did not give up firefighting. He worked for the state Department of Natural Resources during the 2014 fire season and rejoined Reed Gracie’s team this year. “He can’t not fight fires,” Becky says.
On Aug, 21 and 22, he was defending Reed’s place on the Loup. Threatened by the Beaver Lake Fire, part of the larger Okanogan Complex fires, firefighters like Charlie are often joined by the property owners, working hard to save the homes of the permanent residents and a few part-timers’ vacation homes.
Despite her husband’s absence, Becky says she and the kids had a wonderful evening together on the night the power went out. “I have great kids who go into action” when they need to, she said. They set up a washing station, and cooked popcorn on a camping stove. As Becky nursed the baby, they shared stories together. “I am so lucky to have these children,” Becky told me.
Proud grandparents to Jacob are Stan Curtis and Mary Curtis of Bainbridge Island and Annie Curtis in California. Becky’s mother, Juanita Knox, and her sister Andrea came to the valley from Nevada to help out after Jacob’s arrival.
Mary Thompson didn’t pick the best week to come back from Bend for a visit, but she managed to see her dearest friends and stayed over at the Dixons on Wednesday night before heading down the road again.
I’m used to holding my ears and coming indoors when a military plane roars over the valley, but the noise of a DC 10 flying directly above my house is an experience that I couldn’t escape as I was inconveniently situated in the bathroom at the time. I was so certain that the plane was coming through the roof that my life began to flash before my eyes. Shortly after, as I backed the car out of the front yard, the DC 10 returned to make another attempt to drop its load of retardant on Twisp River Road. I am reporting a fact here: Had the plane been 5 feet lower, it would have hit the old TV antenna on the roof. Balancing the fright I experienced against the plane’s ultimate success in its mission, I have no complaints.