One thing (among many) that I have learned from the spokespersons for the fire teams is that wildland fires such as Cedar Creek and Cub Creek are anthropomorphized as living things with unpredictable behaviors. The can be directed, but they also have a “mind of their own.”
When the rains came down last week, I couldn’t help but visualize the fires crying out like the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” after Dorothy douses her with water.
“Ahhhhhhhh. You cursed brat! Look what you have done. I’m melting, I’m melting,” she cried. “Ohhhhhhh, Noooo. I’m going …” as she disappears into a pile of nothing, only her hat remaining.
The Aug. 21 U.S. Forest Service daily briefing reported that “very little fire activity was detected” with the Cedar Creek Fire and “much of the fire remained quiet” at Cub Creek during the rainfall. We hope the fire is going and good riddance.
I would not have bought a “fire shirt” if our house had burned down (I don’t think). But, having experienced a Level 3 evacuation and watching the incredible expertise and collaborative teamwork of hundreds of fire crew, I thought a cozy hoody would be an appropriate reminder of these weeks of my life. I stopped at the “Fire Shirt” stand.
Dan and Cheri Wilson, who live in the Chewiliken Valley (Riverside address/ Tonasket School District), started in the fire business in 1994. Dan was a “faller” and Cheri ran their engine. During this time, they became acquainted with the culture among the firefighting community where wildland firefighters accumulated “fire shirts” dating back to the 1970s. They saw that the shirts were frequently conversation starters amongst the crew when they realized that others were on the same fire in prior seasons.
In 2000, they pivoted to their “mom and pop” business of printed apparel. With four young daughters, they were all able to work in the business every summer traveling the West to the site of fire camps. Dan does the artwork for the shirts; he and Cheri both do the screen-printing in their home print shop. All four daughters eventually went off to graduate from college.
Dan recalls the most memorable shirt that he designed was during the Thirtymile Fire. He said, “We worked closely with the families [of the firefighters who were lost] to produce an embroidery logo memorial shirt.”
The fire shirts continue to help tighten the community bond amongst these men and women who work hard and long in a dangerous environment to save lives, property, and animals. Some appreciative homeowners like myself no doubt buy the shirts to remember the time and honor the work of the wildland firefighters.
I picked up a book a while back at one of the local Little Libraries titled “Wild Fire: On the Front Lines with Station 8” by Heather Hansen, not knowing that it would be a special-interest read this summer. We’ve heard much about Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) as wildfires have eaten up entire towns and homes that are pressing up against the magnificent open spaces inhabited by the “wild,” including deer, bear and mountain lions. This author’s quote struck me: “It is an enviable place to live, except when there’s fire on the hill.”
Ginger Reddington, a well-known valley artist, is offering another media for remembering the firefights. Her original Carlton Complex Fire paintings were well accepted for their vivid depiction of the largest fire in Washington history. The originals are all sold, but she is offering prints of them this year that can be seen at her Ponderosa Studio Annex in Twisp.