Growing up on the East Coast and in the relatively milquetoast pocket of Portland, I would often see or hear reports about wildfires breaking out during the summer. Acres would burn, homes could get scorched, and I could still go to sleep at night knowing I’m in a fairly safe little bubble.
Amazing what being stepping out of the bubble brings to one’s perspective.
Late last night, a wildfire broke out on the side of the hills separating my town of Ephrata from the nearby town of Quincy.
Editorial Note: When I say nearby, that means less than 20 miles distance separating the two towns. Very little is nearby in this part of the world.
Being reporters, we were already on it, but I asked my editor if he needed another camera out getting footage. He told me to go get some distance shots of the fire, just in case. And out I went.
It’s one thing to see wildfire through the prism of a TV screen. It’s another entirely to see it with your own eyes.
I took these pictures from about a mile off and as I did, the wind was picking up with such intensity that I was nearly blown over two or three times. In case you have forgotten your high school chemistry or biology, if there is something fire really loves, it’s wind, and the speed at which that fire spread was both awesome and horrifying.
You can’t see it in the dark, but there are homes on that hill and with even a subtle change in wind speed and direction, the fire crews trying to contain it would be looking at an entirely different animal.
For the people out here, wildfire is an unfortunate reality in much the same way that tornadoes are to an Iowan or Oklahoman. I’m sure I’ll have to go out a lot more times this season to get some on camera. That doesn’t bother me.
What bothers me, at least a little, is now feeling the vulnerability of looking out my window at night, seeing that reddish-orange glow on the other side of the hills and knowing there’s not a damn thing I can do but hope it gets put out before it becomes a very real threat.
I’ve lived in areas where I’ve had to worry about blizzards, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes and for whatever reason, those forces of nature never really rattled me.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit, now having witnessed it firsthand, this one’s got me a little rattled.