Please. Just. Stop. Burning. Stuff.
Nobody in this part of the world needs any kind of outdoor fire, even a carefully tended campfire, when such threatening (and worsening) conditions prevail. Anything can, and probably will, go wrong.
Pretty much every state or federal agency with an acronym, and now Okanogan County, have issued burn bans or restrictions in anticipation of a dry, dangerous summer. More than ever, we are aware that the slightest spark driven by even a modest wind can turn into a monstrous, deadly fire. There are too many natural ways for fires to start without adding to the potential for a big blaze.
“Controlled” private burns (not the same thing as the U.S. Forest Service prescribed burns) are popular in the Methow Valley. Unfortunately, they have an alarming tendency to get out of control. All you need to do is listen to the police/fire/emergency scanner for a few weeks in the spring to confirm that. Every time our Okanogan County Fire District 6 firefighters are “toned” out to respond to a reported fire, or perhaps just a suspicious wisp of smoke, we wonder if this will be the one that starts it all this summer.
Even responsibly observed fires can inadvertently wander out of control. But too often, these incidents can be attributed to ignorance, arrogance or stupidity.
Ignorance is inexcusable. There is just too much information available to justify being unaware of burning guidelines, restrictions or procedures.
Arrogance is knowing all about the guideline or restrictions and yet confidently going ahead anyway. Some people are so certain they know what they’re doing that they believe burning can’t possibly be a problem. Until it is.
Stupid may sound harsh, but it’s nothing compared to what your neighbors will call you when your renegade brush-pile fire torches their house.
Smokey Bear was right. Of all the adjectives that can be attached to wildfires, “human-caused” is the worst. The “new normal” fires of the West are just about unstoppable once they get some momentum. Prevention is all we have.
The next trail
Up on Horizon Flats Road in Winthrop there is an old homestead that looks like it may have been suspended in time. Its 18 mostly open acres include a meandering gravel driveway, sagging barbed wire fence, vintage log cabin and well-worn outbuildings. Locally known as the White property, it has lain fallow for a long time. I’ve driven by the property often enough to have wondered about its past — and its future.
Methow Trails has an idea about that, which has the potential to turn the site into a vibrant center of activity that provides some vital community links. The trails organization has a pending purchase offer on the property, which could become the consolidated operating center for Methow Trails’ facilities now scattered around the valley. (For details, see the story on page A1).
Concurrent with the Methow Trails offer is a request to annex the property to the town. Now, it is in the county although surrounded entirely by Winthrop. Annexation would fulfill one goal of the town’s comprehensive plan and provide Methow Trails with the zoning and access to utilities it would need to make the best use of the parcel.
If the deal and annexation go through, it would represent a promising convergence of opportunity and need for Methow Trails as the organization looks to solidify its presence in the valley for perhaps another 40-plus years to come.
A decade ago it was a ragtag, sepia-toned collection of buildings in the middle of Twisp that faced an uncertain future. The former U.S. Forest Service ranger station bounded by Highway 20 and Glover Street was abandoned and up for sale. It wasn’t necessarily the kind of place that inspired visionary thought.
But some in the community nevertheless saw boundless potential where others saw a shambles, and they went to work on bringing ambitious visions for the site to life. Today, what we now call the TwispWorks campus would likely be unrecognizable to some long-timers who knew it back in the day, although a few signature buildings remain. Those early visions took three-dimensional form thanks to a $1 million anonymous donation to purchase the land — with the requirement that it become a self-supporting entity in 10 years — an impressive amount of community involvement, and a steady drive to hit the organization’s goals. (See story, page B1.)
TwispWorks now champions itself as a catalyst for economic growth and development well beyond its original boundaries, and a model for what other communities might achieve. It will be interesting to see how that plays out over the next decade.