By Ann McCreary
Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody honored two town employees — Police Chief Paul Budrow and Public Works Director Andrew Denham — for their outstanding service to the community during last summer’s wildfires.
Ing-Moody presented Outstanding Community Service Awards during the Dec. 8 Town Council meeting, surprising the recipients with the first-time awards.
The mayor fought back tears as she described the wildfire that began Aug. 19 about five miles up Twisp River Road. Three young men died fighting the fire, and residents of Twisp were evacuated when the fire threatened the town.
“I believe that tragic day will be marked in our memories forever as a community — and we will mourn together the tremendous losses experienced that day,” Ing-Moody said.
“And yet, as all great challenges do, the difficulties of that same day … demonstrated our strengths as a town,” she said.
She commended Budrow for working largely on his own or with limited resources during the disaster, and for calling in National Guardsmen to prevent looting during evacuations.
“Paul managed the emergency for our area, working with Fire Chief [Don] Waller on evacuation levels, working with the county Emergency Operations Center, Aero Methow Rescue Service, and other responding county, state and federal agencies for needed resources. His department managed to safely evacuate the town and valley, at times utilizing citizen volunteers,” Ing-Moody said.
“When the Twisp River fire took off again on the 20th, the chief was the one who called in the fire, adamantly warning dispatch that the fire department needed to be toned out as the fire was just about to take off on another run. His quick response set off a series of responses, including an air attack,” the mayor said.
After the fires of 2014, Ing-Moody said, Budrow initiated an emergency notification system for the town, arranged to train his department in HAM radio operations, and started a Community Emergency Response Training program to train citizens how to respond in the next emergency.
Ing-Moody said the role Denham played as public works director during the wildfire emergency was critical to the success of firefighters, who relied on the continued availability of water to fight the fire.
She noted that during the disaster, Denham did his job with only one arm because he had just had elbow surgery. In addition, most of his staff was away due to vacation or injury.
“During this year’s disaster the town’s pumps were working overtime, and despite efforts, reservoirs were not filling to optimal water capacities,” Ing-Moody said.
“As night fell on the 19th, tactical air suppression had no choice but to leave the area and the courageous, but limited ground suppression resources were all we had to defend the town as fire came down the draw heading straight into town.
“To support the effort, and with incredible tenacity, Andrew worked incessantly to brainstorm where the problem could lie. After making all checks, the deduction was made that it had to be the water (that) people who had evacuated left running to wet down their lawns that was causing the problem. The matter was soon resolved and the reservoirs began to fill again.”
When power went out two days later, Denham kept the wells operating with generators, staying on the job with little sleep even when his own home and family in Conconully were threatened by wildfire, Ing-Moody said.