The Sky Is Falling, you guys.
In 11 years of wildland fire experience, I don't remember a time when the underlying tremors throughout the troops felt like this. Even huge fires that last for months, conflagrations like the Carleton Complex last year - after a few days of hell... a sense of "we got this" would settle in and order would prevail.
In this, it hasn't happened yet. Wave after wave of bad weather, tragedy, homes by the scores lost across the state, and in the fire world, a cry for help. We are underfunded, understaffed, overwhelmed. Just when things start to settle out and forces start to get in place, a new barrage of fire starts and turns and runs take over and the lifesaving choice is only to pull back and regroup, assuming there are any resources to do it.
Richard Wheeler. Tom Zbyszewski. Andrew Zajac. Know the names. Young men all. Strong, vibrant, alive. And now they are gone. Dying one of the most horrific deaths imaginable in a fight to stop the wall of flame sweeping through the communities of Twisp and Winthrop.
The whole town of Tonasket is under evacuation right now.
Countless head of cattle, creatures of all kinds have lost the race with the flame front.
This is a terrible summer.
There cannot be enough prayers, enough hearts open to help, enough understanding minds to skate to the puck and get ahead of the tragedy. Be ready, be vigilant, be smart. Like we are taught in fire training: Look up, look down, look all around. There is need and possibility and risk everywhere.
Life goes on all over the country, people cross-fitting and school shopping and painting nails as if the world wasn't ending. And it's not, really. But drowning in the thick smoke that is three counties wide, it's hard to remember.
Next time you buy a latte, like me, think of the ones that are eating rehydrated beef stroganoff out of an MRE bag at the top of Mt. Leona on the Stickpin fire. The ones who haven't showered for 11 days. The ones who haven't had a toilet to sit on all summer. Next time you get pissed about the heat outside your bedroom window or the smokey tinge on your pillowcase, think about they guys and girls digging out hollows in the pine needles and dirt to sleep for a couple hours, the ones with a mean case of jock itch and blisters that would make your crabby grandpa cry. It's a real fight out there and it isn't about a few trees. It's about your Aunt Ellen's house. And the ranch that's been in the family, supporting the family for three generations. It's about entire hay fields, life savings, family memories lost forever.
And think about Tom, and Andrew and Richard. Their families. Their crews.
This fire season is far from over. Hold them up. Because the sky IS falling. Help us catch it.