Fire Danger Still in the Air

Smoke Filled Sky
Smoke Filled Sky

I went to retrieve my dad last Monday night. Nine days have passed and the area fires surround us. Smoke hovers, winds blow, people pack. Fires blaze in all directions, but the town I live in is still the safety with the farthest fire 15 miles away and across the Columbia River. Thirty miles north trees are engulfed and ash float the wind currents. By the time you read this post, sixteen days will have gone by.

Yesterday I wait for one of our sons to call. Fire is on the move and resources are scant. It was still early morning and I hear his truck and horse trailer grate over   our cattle guard. I pull on my boots and meet him at the door. He’d been up since 4:00 am, watching the news, couldn’t sleep so he loaded three horses and drove an hour to my house for safe keeping. Ah, the grand-horses have come to play. They are safe. For Now. But there are two more that need to make the trip.

We hook up my horse trailer and I follow behind. I pray while driving, asking God for divine protection. For rain. For safety as our reservation and neighboring towns are scorching in Northeast Washington. Omak has started evacuations. Nespelem also. Okanogan is next. Perhaps Riverside. I have family in both towns on the Colville Reservation. My hear sinks. I pray. I beg. I trust.

We get to our son’s place and park by the horses. But first I have to find my year-old granddaughter. I need hugs and to know she’s okay. I need to see her innocent smile.  To know our daughter-in-law and her family are safe.

Our son loads the other two horses and an 1100 lb. round hay bale. We visit a bit more. A truck cruises down the lane and our other son steps out with a buddy. They’ve come to help move farming equipment down by the creek in an already harvested field. Another young man comes to help. They come to help because that’s what we do in times of need.

I head home and unload the horses. They fight and squeal with my four over the fence. The pony is the loudest. Showing his family he’s nothing to recon with. They acquaint themselves most of the day and around dinner time settle in and begin to relax.

My Grandhorses are safe at Painted Hill Ranch
Safe at Painted Hill Ranch

Now is the waiting game. Will the winds pick up? Shift? Rush our way? Will our son and his family survive yet another fire? (Last year a fire broke out and crept up their back yard. Last year firefighters camped at their ranch. This year there is no one to help.) Right now our entire county, Ferry County, is on evacuation level 1 (make a list to pack just in case) because there is no help. We have too many fires in Washington. Idaho. Oregon. California. Our neighbors are at Evacuation level 2 (Pack and be ready to leave) or level 3 (grab those bags you packed and get out!)

Family is threatened. Friends are threatened. Creator God, I know you are good all the time. I know you have a purpose.  I know you are in control. Please Lord, bring the rain. This is real, not a county song.

Since I began this post, fires have grown, intensified. The flames that threaten our son’s home is a mere three miles away. I’m thankful his horses are here. More counties have evacuated. Homes have burned. Firefighters have lost their lives. There is nothing I can do, but open up our ranch. Donate food, blankets, clothing. Be ready in case lightning strikes or fires cross lines.

In the meantime, life goes on. I edit, write, play with grand-kids, watch the hay come in, track the fires.

And so we wait. We pray. We assist. We trust.

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  1. Carmen – it’s in times of trouble that we discover our strength. I totally agree with Alice, your journal will be (is!) valuable in the historic sense.

    Karen Casey Fitzjerrell
    PS: Your website design is top-notch.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thank you, Karen! On all accounts. I never really thought of the journal on paper or online. I agree with you and Alice. It will be valuable. I’m glad you both brought it up.

  2. Alice Trego says:

    Your title and photo drew me to your words, Carmen…I had to read them, to see how you and yours were faring among the fires. I hung on your every word. I was lifted and set down again by each description of the evacuation levels; how everyone chips in to help everyone; how family remains dear in times of chaos, how everyone prays for rain. And I imagined you writing these words in a journal, for someone else to read many, many years from now. To let them experience your emotions, and these past smoke-filled days, through your words.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thank you, Alice! I do have an online journal going. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, but thankful for the rain and hoping it keeps falling. Our land desperately needs the moisture. I do love our area, when tragedy strikes everyone pitches in and helps no matter what.

  3. Oh, my goodness. What a well written, but scary piece, Carmen. I’m praying that this recent rain dampened things down at your section of the state, too.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thank you, Mary. We are loving the rain! It is helping, but the fires are so huge, it is only giving the firefighters some relief and time to create much needed fire lines. We would need two weeks of this rain to put anything out. But it is a start and we are thankful! Many areas that were on level 2 evac are now on level 1. I think everyone is breathing a little easier.

      1. Laura Emerson says:

        Carmen, I am so relieved to read that the rains have come, just as you asked God to being them.

        1. Carmen Peone says:

          Thank you, Laura! I am also relieved. God is good! All the time.