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CHELAN AFIRE

As dawn breaks this Saturday morning we find ourselves in something of a dilemma. After months of anticipation and planning, the moment of our departure has arrived but we are hesitant to leave because events have conspired to complicate what should have been a no-brainer. A lightning storm descended on Chelan yesterday morning and ignited numerous fires, one of them only two miles from our house. Since no rain has fallen since April in the Chelan area and temperatures have been in the nineties and triple digits, the underbrush is constantly on the verge of exploding into flame. The lightning storm provided the needed spark.

I considered the situation all yesterday. A violent wind came up in the afternoon and fanned the flames to the point where much of the city of Chelan was threatened. Fortunately, the wind was blowing from the west and since the fire that threatened us is to the east, the wind paradoxically provided a safety margin for us.

When I set my mind to doing something it is very hard for me to abandon that goal. So it is with this trip. Even though our house might be burned in this wildfire, I find it hard to put off our departure. If we don’t leave today, we’ll have to wait an entire week because Rachel, our ride, can only give us a ride on Saturdays. With nothing to do here but wait around for the fire to arrive (and then what would I do?) I am champing at the bit.

I checked the weather forecasts and they are reassuring: The violent winds of yesterday heralded a cold front. Temperatures will be in the seventies and low eighties and winds will be light and from the north and west. These conditions should help greatly to keep the fire away from our house.

Not without reservation, we packed our gear yesterday afternoon and drove to Wenatchee where we will rendezvous with Rachel. As we left Chelan, the city was surrounded by fire and smoke. Helicopters and air tankers dropping loads of water and retardant on the fires filled the sky like a scene from a combat movie. Shortly after we got to Wenatchee we heard on the radio that the highways in and out of Chelan had been closed to traffic. Then we heard that Union Valley (where we live) had been placed on a Level Three evacuation order. Considering the wind direction, I chalked the evacuation order up to excessive caution.

When we finally got our gear and supplies packed and loaded on the bikes I had to grimace. My little B.O.B. trailer is dwarfed by the the load. I’m carrying 50 lbs (plus the 15-lb trailer) and Mary is carrying 21 lbs. That weight should rein me in and slow me down.

Unless we hear something disastrous before we leave, we are off today to Montana and the beginning of our Great Divide mountain bike ride. I’m confidant our house will be standing when we return. Stay tuned.

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