The West is on Fire

Fire Casting Kayla Lockhart

My husband KC planned a surprise anniversary trip for me, we drove to a legendary river in Southern Oregon for a few days of steelhead fishing to celebrate. This river has years of history and stories that so many steelhead anglers cherish and share. We woke up eager to fish first light, so we were up at 5 am to be ready. We got out on the water around 6 am-ish. As the sun was rising steadily we started noticing the smoke billowing above the trees, we figured it was from all the fires happening and it didn’t seem out of the norm to have a mellow amount of smoke in the sky.

As we continued to swing through a few runs, I sat on a rock and saw a smoke formation engulfing the sun, and I watched as the sky changed to this deep hue of orange.

We fished for 15 more minutes keeping our eyes on it and talking back and forth about what could be the cause, by the time we were finishing our sentences, we knew this didn’t look good as the smoke had grown abruptly over the sky. That’s when I knew this had to be a fire nearby. We took a few last casts and snapped a few photos and decided it was time to head to safety.

When we got into service I looked up any fires that could be nearby and what I found was that someone’s camper trailer caught fire at a campsite not far from where we were. We got off the water and drove to the motel and that’s where first responders met us to tell us to evacuate immediately.

Fire Casting Kayla Lockhart

We then obviously ended our trip and headed back to Portland, driving through blankets of red and orange skies. If this isn’t all a huge sign from Mother Earth telling us how pissed she is, then I don’t know what is.

And a major sign that humans have a huge role and impact in our environments and what can and can’t be prevented. All I hope is that people will start listening. And from the words of Amanda Monthei (@a_monthei) who said it better than I could “We are going to have to reassess our relationship with our landscapes.

 

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I wrote a thing on Twitter that is making the rounds and getting some attention, so thought I’d share here too (alongside this timelapse of a fire in Wyoming blowing up in 2018.) Here’s the post (it’s long but I’m sure you’ve come to expect that from me at this point): I think a lot of people in the fire world would agree that this is probably the gnarliest day that the US has seen in a VERY long time in terms of fire behavior and the sheer amount of communities/infrastructure destroyed and threatened. Almost every western state has red flag warnings today, wind shifts in both California and Washington have contributed to enormous growth of both human and lightning caused fires, and entire towns have been burned over in eastern Washington and Oregon. Amidst it all are numerous vehicle burnovers and shelter deployments—18 in the last four days, which is more than the last five summers combined—and injuries amongst those working on the line. People up and down the West coast are dealing with the kind of air that makes you wake up feeling like you smoked a pack of Marlboros. Straight up—it’s so unhealthy that you’ll be smoking a pack a day just by being outside in it. Meanwhile, I have friends evacuating all over the place, from California to Central Oregon to Eastern Washington. This all to say—I’m always on my high horse about using good fires to prevent bad ones. But only talking about good fire and how we can utilize it to prevent this shitshow overlooks the mess of our current reality. Our path out of this is going to necessarily require more summers like this. It’s going to be a massive transition. It’s going to take decades. There’s zero easy fix for it. We can’t rake, cut, log, graze or burn our way out of this. What is becoming abundantly clear is that we’re going to have to start thinking about fire year round, we’re going to have to reconsider where we live, we’re going to have to make some sacrifices, and we’re going to need to reassess our relationship with our landscapes. Every other relationship in our lives takes active, conscious and (most importantly) continual effort, so why would our relationship with fire be any different?

A post shared by Amanda Monthei (@a_monthei) on

This historic stretch of river is engulfed and the historic landmarks like, the Dogwood Motel and the Steamboat Inn that so many steelhead anglers cherished are gone. My heart goes out to everyone who has experienced loss through this. And an immense amount of gratitude goes out to the women and men risking so much and fighting these fires. We all can’t thank you enough. 💔

Article from Kayla Lockhart-Badger, an angler, artist, and traveler based in Portland, Oregon. Additional photos from her husband KC Badger.

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1 COMMENT

  1. The West is not on fire.
    No, Mother Nature is not sending messages.
    What is happening is areas that did not allow science based forest management including logging, controlled burns , and thinning are having bad fires. Oregon and Washington areas dominated by fake environmental zealots stopped forest management, let undergrowth and spindly trees grow and the result is high intensity fires.
    California is having fires where people have built houses in arroyos that have always burned but are now full of homes.
    There is a price to pay for not managing the forest and a price to pay for building where no building should be done.
    The sad irony is the people causing this problem are the very people who give themselves awards as environmental advocates.

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