Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Vacation Part 2 - The Fire

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!

As if it wasn't already hot enough at Kah-Nee-Ta.

You know, we were willing to forgive Carlos for kicking us out of the pool.
We were ready to forget the fact that the "on site" casino was really 13 miles away.
We were even going to accept the silly rule that we weren't allowed to swim in the river.
And even when the kitchen up at the lodge caught on fire and almost burned the place down, we still stayed positive (it didn't impact the camp ground or the pool, after all).

But ultimately, we just couldn't catch a break on this vacation.

Because over the weekend the whole freaking place caught on fire.
We even had our own personal firefighter with us (hi Stew), but sadly it wasn't enough.

Here's what happened...

 That afternoon at the pool, we noticed a ton of white smoke on the horizon; obviously a distant wildfire. By the time the sun went down, we realized that the orange glow below the smoke was actually fire, not remnants of the beautiful sunset.

It was at about that time that the fire department showed up. But they didn't seem too concerned, so neither were we.

So Mom, Nancy and I did what anyone would do... we hiked back up the mountain hill to check out the situation (of course the boys stayed back at camp so the beer bong wouldn't get lonely). We couldn't believe what we saw! But the fire was burning in a relatively straight line, so we figured it was a controlled back burn (we're wildfire experts, after all). Honestly though, it was extremely windy on the hill, and very scary to watch that fire creeping toward the campground. 

Back at camp, a park ranger assured us that the campground would not be evacuated. And a park ranger is more of a wildfire expert than I am, so we decided to trust him (even though the fire was slowly getting brighter up on the hill). Everyone drank extra Coors Lights in case we had to pee on the fire to put it out, and we headed to bed.

At around 2:30 Sunday morning Stew and I looked out the window and saw that the fire had come over the top of the hill and was coming directly toward us. This seemed to contradict Ranger Rick's instructions. In addition, people were frantically throwing things into their trailers and high tailing it out of there. Hmmm... I decided to wake up my dad.

In the meantime, police officers had begun pounding on people's doors, urging them to evacuate as quickly as possible up to the lodge, which was about a quarter mile up the road and across the river in the "green zone." They insisted the evacuation was simply a precaution due to smoke; we could even leave our only mode of transportation motor home if we wanted. Our trust in authority was waning, so we decided to take it with us. We threw everything in as quickly as possible and took off as the fire burned quickly toward us.

The view from the hill up at the lodge was absolutely awesome. The fire was burning out of control for miles and miles. I told everyone I was sure it would jump the river, but since we had been assured we were safe at the lodge, we went ahead and checked into our rooms. Ten minutes later, the power went out. Soon after, urgent employees were pounding on our doors, shouting about immediate evacuation. The fire had jumped the river and was coming straight for the lodge. Told ya.

Stew, Mom and I wandered through the smoke-filled lodge, trying to find Dad and AJ, who had gone back to the motor home for a couple things. Frantic employees with bobbing flashlights were yelling and pounding on doors, and the fire was obviously even more out of control. I started to wonder if perhaps we should have been evacuated earlier, as well as question my faith in park rangers and minimum wage hotel employees.

Eventually, we found the rest of the family and made our way through the smoke to the motor home. Somehow we managed to be the absolute dead last people out of the parking lot. I felt like we were in the middle of the Apocalypse.
I later learned that at this point 12,000 acres were burning, and the fire was only 10 percent contained.

I am so, so bummed that it didn't occur to me to take a video as we pealed out of the parking lot (I was too busy staring in my own action adventure movie), but I did manage to snap this photo, which shows the way out and fire right up alongside the road. Ash rained down on us as we sped through the smoke and away from the fire.

It was four in the morning and we had no idea what to do next. The motor home was a disaster, filled haphazardly with chairs, bicycles, coolers, and every other random camping item we had thrown in. Everything reeked of smoke.

Screw. This.

We headed home. My dad drove the four hours straight to Olympia, where we crawled straight into bed.

Not cool, Kah-Nee-Ta, not cool.

Hang around for Part 3 - The Ocean.


  1. oh dear!! I'm glad everyone made it out ok. this is terrible.

  2. Oh my gosh!! I can't believe that glad you and your family are ok! I'm hoping Part 3 has a better ending. :)

  3. What a freaking adventure!! You could write a book with all your stories!!

  4. Holy Cow! These pictures are amazing, Sarah. I am so glad you all made it out of there safe and sound!

  5. Your pictures are surreal!!!! How scary but I'm glad you guys were okay. All these fires around the PNW are so scary!

  6. This is crazy! Oh my goodness! I would have been freaked from the very beginning! ha! I'm glad you all made it out all right. What a crazy adventure.

    1. It was seriously nuts! I felt like I was in an action movie, I swear, it didn't even feel real. I honestly thought we were in real danger there for a second, it was so scary!


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