Sun showing through thick wildfire smoke in a pine forest near Spokane, Washington

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topdogRural Living

After a relatively calm summer for this region, the wildfires finally struck last Friday.

Dry late-summer conditions and high winds combined to form the perfect combination for wildly destructive firestorms. All that was required was a spark.

Which – I assume – some people helpfully supplied.

I “assume” because the fires are still being fought and the causes have not been determined. However, there were no obvious natural causes; no thunderstorms; no volcanic eruptions; no blazing asteroids or bears playing with matches.

All these fires are assumed to be human-caused.

To the west, a fire designated the Gray Road Fire started west of Medical Lake and grew, moving quickly in the 40+ mph winds, forcing evacuations and destroying nearly 200 structures, including homes in and around the town. Neighborhoods were transformed into ash within hours. Winds pushed the fire across Granite Lake and a portion of I-90 near Cheney. It grew to over 10,000 acres and as of Monday morning was only 10% contained.

Up north, a fire designated as the Oregon Road Fire told much the same story, this time in more heavily wooded and hilly terrain, very similar to our own. Evacuations were ordered and again, many homes were destroyed. It grew to over 10,000 acres and is currently only 10% contained.

Down south, another fire struck in the wheat fields and hills of the Palouse near the farming town of Wynona, growing to 2500 acres and destroying one house and 24 outbuildings. As of this morning (Monday) it is 90% contained.

The above fires are just the ones in Washington within 50 miles of my location. East, in Idaho, there are plenty more fires burning as well. So I guess you can say we’re surrounded.

Here in our wooded mountain compound, we’ve been very lucky, as no jackass has sparked anything out here… yet.

Speaking of jackasses, a few years back, in the summer of 2014 I think it was, there was a teenager angry with his dad for moving the family to Spokane. The kid, after some very deep thinking, decided the best way to show his anger would be to light several fires in our rural, wooded hills. One fire in particular was less than a mile away and was a direct threat to our property and us. Thankfully it was a mostly quiet summer and fire crews were available to handle the blaze quickly and professionally.

They caught the little shit and he became a guest of the state, courtesy of us taxpayers.

But aside from angry teens, there are plenty of yahoos with little ability to think ahead and plenty of access to things that get hot, so the danger is constant, real, and enough to keep me up at nights, sniffing the air for any sign of wood smoke.

These aren’t the only idiots, however.

On the internet I’ve been seeing lots of ignorant fools who have already determined the fires were started by government Directed Energy Weapons (DEW). Now, I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next hickster, but these morons aren’t interested in Truth That’s Out There. What they want are clicks and they don’t need stupid facts to get in their way.

They did this with the Maui fires and they’re doing it with the Spokane fires.

One guy claimed the fires were deliberately set via DEW because the city of Spokane is on the list to become a 15-minute city and the city of Spokane needed the land. He conveniently ignored the fact that the fires were in Spokane COUNTY, not city and that they were several miles outside the city lines.

One of their favorite claims is that the fires only destroyed the houses and left the trees untouched – “OMG! Therefore DEW!!!” – These morons seem to ignore the very evidence in front of their well-picked noses. In EVERY video I’ve seen, houses were destroyed, and the trees were obviously singed with burnt branches barren of needles.  These city dwellers need to step off the sidewalk of their Cul-de-sacs and check out a forest once in a while. If they did, they might learn that trees have more water content than lumber and in a wind-whipped fire, the bark will get scorched and needles dropped or burned and the fire will move on to easier fuels. It’s easy to spot. The trees are dead, or will die soon enough, but they’re still there. This happens every time.

Hell! Last year in Glacier National Park we saw whole forest stands that had been burnt. The trees were still there, brown and lifeless after several years. And younger trees were slowly filling in the area. Trees don’t burn to the ground like houses, you fools!

DEW’s! Really? Back to reality…

The last few days, the skies have been choked with impenetrable smoke and falling ash. I’ve been finding many large ash chunks of up to three inches that drifted from the Gray Road Fire all the way to our property. That’s about twenty miles as the crow flies, or the ember floats.

We’re not out of the woods, literally and metaphorically, but the winds have died down and rain is – thankfully – in the forecast.

The tropical storm coming from California will bring the rain. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d ever say these words, but right now I really can’t get enough of Hilary.

Steve in 2021
About the Author

Topdog is Steve Merryman, a retired graphic designer, illustrator, and unrepentant asshole. Steve can usually be found working on a portrait commission or some other artwork. Steve fills his days by painting, writing, shootin' guns, cuttin' trees, hiking with his dogs, and savoring a beer or two, all while searching for the perfect cheeseburger. He studiously avoids social media and is occasionally without pants.