Helping in wildfire fighting operations

So, Summer is about to roll around again in the Seattle area, which is usually something most people here celebrate.

However, as a volunteer with Community Emergency Response Teams, I think of wildfires.

Already, as I write this, a massive complex fire has devastated at least one city in Alberta, Canada. Other blazes are raging in Eastern Washington.

It brings me back to the Summer of 2015, when I volunteered to help with the fire operations in Chelan, WA.

My job was pretty safe – helping with refugees who had to evacuate their homes. The real heroes were the ones in the frontlines – three firefighters lost their lives that season.

Here are some of the photos (and a video) I took during the time I had on my breaks.

I hope it gives you a sense of what a wildfire can do to communities – both by threatening its very existence but also, in a paradoxical way, banding them together.

Rolling out: A clarion call was sent by the small band of Chelan firefighters for help from their brethren from across Washington state. That call was answered.

 

Pulling into a very quiet Chelan in the dead of the night. You couldn't see the devastation, but you could sure smell the smoke in the air.

Pulling into a very quiet Chelan in the dead of the night. You couldn’t see the devastation, but you could sure smell the smoke in the air.

 

One of the Chelan parks by the Columbia River was turned into the Incident Base for the Chelan Complex Fire.

One of the Chelan parks by the Columbia River was turned into the Incident Base for the Chelan Complex Fire.


It also became a sizable tent city that would empty out every morning as the firefighters rolled out to contend with the state's worst wildfires in years.

The riverside park also became a sizable tent city that would empty out every morning as the firefighters rolled out to contend with the state’s worst wildfires in years. Note that no one is living in palatial conditions.

 

Folks here sure do appreciate everything that these heroes are doing to keep their town from going up in smoke.

Folks here sure do appreciate everything that these heroes are doing to keep their town from going up in smoke.

 

The smoke that hangs over the Chelan area is ever present. It gets on your clothes, and in your eyes and throat, making physical exertions that much more challenging.

The smoke that hangs over the Chelan area is ever present. It gets on your clothes, and in your eyes and throat, making physical exertions that much more challenging.

 

The flames came so quickly the owners of these cars weren't allowed to come back for them. Folks here said they blew up once the fuel tanks ignited.

The flames came so quickly the owners of these cars weren’t allowed to come back for them. Folks here said they blew up once the fuel tanks ignited.

 

Nothing left of the house except for rubble and metal parts of household appliances.

Nothing left of the house except for rubble and metal parts of household appliances.

 

Nothing left of the house except for rubble and metal parts of household appliances.

The back of a refrigerator, as well as other rubble, are all that remains in the wake of the wildfire that consumers the Chelan area.

 

A fruit processing facility is destroyed by the wildfires.

A fruit processing facility is destroyed by the wildfires.

 

When the local building supply store burns down, it makes it that much harder to repair fire damage to your home - assuming it wasn't totally consumed.

When the local building supply store burns down, it makes it that much harder to repair fire damage to your home – assuming it wasn’t totally consumed.

 

Lots of people lost their jobs when the businesses they worked for went up in flames. This hit is going to sting long after the flames are extinguished.

Lots of people lost their jobs when the businesses they worked for went up in flames. This hit is going to sting long after the flames are extinguished.

 

These Sikorsky heavy lift helos look like they might have been grounded today. Not sure if it is because of the poor viz, or cos they needed maintenance. Maybe a bit of both?

These Sikorsky heavy lift helos look like they might have been grounded today. Not sure if it is because of the poor viz, or cos they needed maintenance. Maybe a bit of both?

 

The power was one of the first things to go out, once the fire burned down the power lines.

The power was one of the first things to go out, once the fire burned down the power lines.

 

The power was one of the first things to go out, once the fire burned down the power lines.

The Washington National Guard was on hand to provide support as well.

 

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