Our Northwest

Chelan’s wildfire sites are sadly familiar

Monday, August 17, 2015by  Jon Osterberg

I’m distraught at the news reports and online images streaming in from the Chelan-area wildfires, because I’m so familiar with the homes and property burning up.
     I’ve loved visiting Chelan since I was 20. Later, starting in 1993, we spent a week each summer 13 miles uplake at Kelly’s Resort. We did that for a dozen years, until our kids went off to college. We still spend one weekend in Chelan each year.
     A favorite activity is to cruise in our boat along Lake Chelan’s south shore from Kelly’s to town, admiring the beachfront homes.
     Many of those homes are gone today, following this past weekend’s fast-moving wildfires. All that remain are concrete foundations and smoldering ashes.
     As I write this, reports say the First Creek fire is burning less than 1 mile from Kelly’s Resort. Flames have yet to cross South Lakeshore Drive, but they’re near The Cove community and Lake Chelan Yacht Club.
     We returned to Kelly’s in 2012 with our adult kids and, like always, stayed in a cabin amidst the pines. One day we cruised aboard the Lady of the Lake to Stehekin. Approaching Lucerne –  threatened recently by the Wolverine fire – we saw charred trees stretching for miles into the high mountains, evidence of a huge wildfire in years gone by.
     We knew wildfires came with the territory. There was the horrible summer of 1994, when 298,000 acres burned in Chelan County. Another summer, a co-worker showed us his photos of flames creeping down Bear Mountain toward Chelan proper.
     One casualty in this weekend’s fire was Chelan Fruit, a huge complex of climate-controlled warehouses. A cooperative of 300 growers, you might recognize Chelan Fruit’s longtime brands like Trout and Blue Chelan apples. Years ago I was given a private tour of its main Chelan plant by then-general manager Willem Drost. The operation was vast, and fascinating.
     Chelan Fruit absorbed the brunt of Friday’s fire. Media reports say damages are estimated at $50-$80 million.
     For fire updates, check out the Go Lake Chelan website or its Facebook page.

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Comments on this post

personKim08/19/2015 08:35 AM
Thank you for writing this piece.

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