By Judy McBride
In the latest issue of the Methow Valley News, there were many stories of the fires that surrounded us this past week. I am writing to let you all know the details concerning the fire that encroached upon our home and the town of Twisp the night of Aug. 19. The fire crossed Elbow Coulee and made its way toward town burning across the property of the Walking D Ranch, not John Doran’s place. He watched, as many did, as the fire approached our home and the town.
Our residence was at the pinch point of the fire. Early in the evening we were informed of the evacuation, but we decided to stay and protect our home, the Ranch House, our neighbors and the town. Kevin and I knew the gravity of the threat and we were ready to do whatever it took to save our home and to flee only if need be. Since they knew their pilot’s – “Cap’n McBride’s” – home, with the town of Twisp so near, was in peril, nine smokejumpers came to our aide. They arrived after a full day’s work and with the news fresh in their ears of the loss of three firefighters.
Their diligent professional assessment of the situation resulted in the U.S. Forest Service recognizing it as a true threat to the town, not just as a residence in danger, and thus more resources were made available. The smokejumpers traversed the land patrolling the fire perimeter throughout the night. The 20-man Bear Town fire crew was brought in and, together with the smokejumpers and the cat work provided by Pete Delange, they broadened the old pioneer road to build a wide fire line. Kevin and I set sprinklers and had fire hoses in place to keep the surrounding hillside wet.
Ken and Mike Doran worked tirelessly, spraying water around the edges of our home from Ken’s hydro-seeding truck. The Methow River Wildland contract engine stood by our house all night, on watch for embers. Clay Ashford manned a chainsaw limbing the trees that could ignite if flames became too high. Wayne Umberger was up on his excavator plowing a fire line above the house into the wee hours of the morning; his daughter Katlynn with Char Gardner provided emotional support, helped us pack and just stayed with me. The sense of community filled my heart.
The plan was to wait as the fire damped down to light a back burn from the edge of our home up into the oncoming fire. At 4 a.m., the order to ignite was given and all across the ranch small fires were started. You could see little headlamps all around the perimeter of the fire, smokejumpers and firefighters manning the line. With fire crews positioned out by the old pole yard of Jere Seguin’s place, ready to go if the fire jumped, we watched and waited. The strategy worked. By 5:30 a.m. the fire had burned into itself, and the black was smoldering. By actually fighting this fire at this point, it freed up resources to attack the northern end of the fire during the day. The crews from the night remained on the ranch all day, making sure it was out enough to begin mop up later.
There cannot be enough said or enough praise given to the firefighting abilities of these crews and the work of family and friends that kept our place from burning. In the midst of all this, I felt safe, knowing we had the best of the best protecting us. Thank you to all the people who stayed up all night defending our home, the neighborhood, and the town of Twisp.
Judy McBride lives in Twisp.