Two weeks ago, several wildfires broke out near my fair city. With temperatures in the mid-90s F, very little ground moisture, and high winds, conditions were ripe for disaster. Disaster struck. The ignition points of the two closest fires were about five miles north and about eight miles south of the house. Luckily for us, wind direction guided the fire away from Spokane proper. After several tense days of watching evacuation zones and a return to cooler temperatures, the fires were contained.
The fire south of the city cut across a narrow valley often a part of my regular cycling routine as I head out onto the Palouse. Altering my normal southerly route until the situation stabilized and clean up could be addressed, I finally returned to this route midweek. With news reports of several homes lost to fire, my thoughts focused on assessing damage as I cycled out of town. In the photo below, the wildfire swept up and over the hill in the background.
To my surprise, I passed no homes or ranches destroyed by the fire. In several instances, evidence of fire stopped only yards from a home. These families were fortunate, indeed, and must have suffered great anxiety as the flames bore down on their property. Dotting the roadside were numerous reminders of the work done. Besides a charred landscape, those reminders included hand painted signs thanking the firefighters and farmers for their diligent work in saving their homes from destruction.
As I neared the steep climb out of the valley and up onto the Palouse Plateau, the destruction came into view. The fire had swept down and across the narrow Latah Creek Valley from the west and up the canyon walls on the east. The Valley Chapel Road switchback climbing up and out of the valley and onto the rolling farmland on the plateau witnessed the fire sweeping across it. Both sides of the canyon were scorched by the wildfire and a heavy smell of smoke lingered as I climbed the hill. As I reached the Longhorn ranch near the top of the climb, the fire line stopped. While devastating, the fire seemed to cut a narrow swath across the valley without touching any of the homes in that narrow strip of farm and woodland.
With trees scorched and all underbrush burned away, it will take time for the now, barren landscape to recover. The results could have been much worse.