Friday, May 7, 2010

The Thirty Mile Fire tour...

On July 9, 2001, the fateful Thirtymile Fire ignited from an illegal campfire. What was thought to be a relatively simple suppression operation took a deadly turn during the peak burn period the next day. By the end of shift July 10th 2001 fourteen firefighters had been entrapped, four were dead and the fire was heading towards 9,000 acres in size and would cost over four million dollars to suppress.

Since that time hundreds of firefighters have traveled up the Chewuch River not only to pay their respects to fallen comrade but to learn from the lessons of that incident.

We started out at the Winthrop Memorial to Fallen Firefighters;

I was fortunate to once again be in the company of the Orcas Island firefighters. Adding to the learning experience were two local firefighters Pete Soderquist and Tom Leuschen who were to be our guides for the day. From here I'll let the phographic captions tell the story...

Winthrop Firefighters Memorial:
Orcas Island Fire and Rescue:
Fire Vision LLC:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tapteil Winery...

Down south of my home grounds, near where the Yakima River meets the mighty Columbia look to the west and you'll see Red Mountain. Home to Tapteil Vineyard belonging to my cousin Larry and his wife, Jane, Pearson. Many years ago Larry researched the area and chose to name his vineyard after the nearly forgotten people of the Yakima river valley ~ the Tapteil.

Wines NW describes Red Mountain in terms of wine making: "Red Mountain Appellation is Washington State's smallest viticultural appellation, federally authorized on April 3, 2001. It is an area (3,600 acres) in the southeastern portion of Yakima Valley Appellation. Six hundred acres are planted to vineyards that have developed over the past 25 years to earn their owners top dollar for the premium grapes grown there."

Recently daughter Rose and I had the pleasure of visiting with Larry & Jane as well as my cousin Jacquie and her husband David Stephens and cousin Ashley. Although too short we enjoyed the time at the vineyards and given the fact it was spring barrel tasting weekend, well that was an added bonus. Here are a few pics of Taptiel, the family and friends...

Wines NW:
Tapteil Estate:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Perch...

Dawn approaches on a cold and wet, early spring morning. New snow has fallen in the nearby mountains. I can see the hint of fresh whiteness in the parting of the valley mists. As daylight comes I perch looking out over the river, looking to the east, looking to the new light of day. A bald eagle is also perched in what we call the 'eagle snag'. An old cottonwood with a dead, heavy branch protruding over the flowing of cold morning, quicksilver water. As light enters the valley the eagle watches intensely for the shadow of trout just below the dark water surface.

My perch is more comfortable then my neighbor eagle's. The fireplace crackles just behind me, radiant warmth taking the chill of night out of Riverhome. Hot, strong, coffee aroma wafts up from the ceramic cup tucked close to my chest. There is movement at the river. I note a whitetail doe leading seven others across the shallows from my side of the stream to the other. The deer walk cautiously thru the water. Wavelets break against their belly’s and last years fawn breaks rank and runs for the shore. Shaking itself like a dog and bucking like a tiny filly when it reaches the gravel bar. The does do not seem to mind. They continue to plod through the water. It is a daily routine.

The eagle appears to pay the whitetails no attention. The great bird stands erect, and with it's back curved inward stretches it's wings. One big shudder and the eagle has tucked itself back into the slender, dark form against the growing light. Morning has broken...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Another look at Seattle - March, 2010...

I like Seattle. A seaport city situated on an hilly isthmus between Elliot Bay in Puget Sound and two bodies of freshwater, Lake Union, and Lake Washington. The largest city of the United States Pacific Northwest, named after Chief Seattle, of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. I like Seattle sitting on the toes of the Cascade Mountains, the view of Mount Rainer on a clear day and especially watching the sunrise on or set behind the Olympic Mountain Range of the Olympic Peninsula. What a fantastic setting for the emerald city!
Here are a few rather unique views from a few days Catherine, Clementine and I recently ‘Emerald City’.
Image #1: Post Alley; most folks are familiar with Pike’s Place Market or the Public Market at the end of Pike Street. Post Alley is a somewhat hidden route under the market.

In the second image the girls are walking down the beginning of Post Alley just before it turns and goes under the market place. Cobbled roadway with moss growing between the brick cracks; posters of events, art shows, performances, political statements and other flotsam of human expression line the concrete wall.

Photograph number three; No visit to the Public Market is complete without a stroll past the fish hawkers and fresh vegetable stands. This early morning shot is possible as the daily crowds are not yet thick and bustling. I like the lighting and repetitive patterns within this image.

With image number 4 we’ll stay in the Public Market area just a bit longer. The nearby Market Park is where this totem pole is found. It’s a small park with a great view out over Elliot Bay and some of the ship yards.

Believe it or not, this clean and sparsely used (at least in March) beach, image 5, is downtown Seattle. The Seattle Art Museum sculpture park is just a hundred feet up from this driftwood, gravel beach.
Photo #6 is from a mid-day stroll through the waterfront park. The Seattle Post Intelligence building makes a distinctive subject with its cloud reflecting glass front and unusual symbol globe perched atop. I like the temporary orange construction fencing contrasting with the rest of the image. The whole image just struck me as pleasantly unique.
Image #7 is from a visit to the tropical butterfly house at the Seattle Science Center where I caught this ‘morpho peleides’ hanging off a leaf of this angels trumpet tree. With the temperatures are in the low 80s, humidity between 60 to 70 percent, combined with full-spectrum lighting to keep the plants and butterflies healthy, this is an enjoyable way to pass a rainy, late winter day.
In closing; photograph #8 is from our temporary abode above Alaskan Way across the street from the Seattle waterfront. Sunrise on the Olympic on a clear morning is a fine sight to behold.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Forgotten Words...

“Forgotten Words” is what I've chosen to name this post of the FIREWATER blog. Forgotten words in reference to the near disappearance of written journals of little known but historically important characters to our Inland Northwest. “Near disappearance” I say as it is the literal work author Jack Nisbet who has reached back in time through the above mentioned journals of David Thompson and David Douglas, and a number of others to resurrecting those words. Nisbet has the talent to do so within a contemporary framework and offer it all to us in a digestible format.

“Like a lot of explorers and heroes, you go through ebbs and flows,” says Spokane historian/author Jack Nisbet in a December 2007 interview with the Spokesman Review newspaper. Considering Nisbet’s collection of published works including:
• The Sources of the River (1994)
• Purple Flat Top: In Pursuit of a Place (1996)
• Singing Grass, Burning Sage: Discovering Washington’s Shrub-Steppe (1999)
• Visible Bones: Journeys through Time in the Columbia River Country
• The Mapmaker’s Eye: David Thompson on the Columbia Plateau (2005)
• The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest (2009)

I say the tide of Mr. Nisbet is on ‘flow’.

Catherine, Clementine and I had the opportunity, along with 30 or so other local folks, to see and listen to Jack tell the background story on his latest book – ‘The Collector’ at the Republic Library on the Friday evening of February 19th.

Nisbet’s ‘The Collector’ won the 2010 annual Pacific Northwest Book Awards, which have been presented to such luminary figures in Northwest literature as Ivan Doig, Ursula LeGuin, David James Duncan, David Guterson, Jon Krakauer, Chuck Palahniuk, and Sherman Alexie.

One of the engaging elements of attending Nisbet’s presentations is his combined passion & knowledge for the subjects he’s researched and documented. Whether it’s the topographic formations of the Pacific Northwest, specific landmarks and place names or a litany of historical characters Jack can espouse them right along side the local and Latin names of most native plants.

Chance found me reading ‘The Mapmaker’s Eye’ while sitting on my river deck in late May 2007. The Kettle River flowing by at flood stage was the backdrop. Through his research and writing of the challenges of David Thompson, Jack was able to guide me to see what a significant event it was to native peoples and early explorers in trying to cross our local rivers and larger streams at flood stage. I’ve lived along the shores of the Kettle River for nearly 30 years but that moment, in reading the words of this historic explorer, framed by this excellent author, a poignant realization settled over me. One that to this day, nearly three years later, is still within the fabric of understanding woven into me regarding my chosen home-ground.

It is within the stand of the ponderosa pines in the centerground of this photograph where riverhome is located and where the Kettle River is often viewed from deck with good book in hand and a hot cup of coffee nearby...
  If you get a chance to catch up with Jack at one of his presentations or book signing events don’t miss the opportunity. And needless to say, I encourage you to read Jack’s books. The following is a link to some Jack Nisbet sites:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Call of the Wild...

Curlew and the Kettle River Valley has been unseasonably warm this February. Upper 40’s today, the 17th of the month. Those of us who’ve been here for awhile have seen this time of year when the daylight hours barely reach zero degrees and the nights fall to near -20° below.

As fellow firefighter Rob Slagle told me today, he’s not sure if he really likes this mild weather. “What will fire season be like?” He asked. Good question.

How warm has it been? Here’s today’s weather and part of the forecast:
Current Temperature 43° (1733:hours). Conditions ‘fair’. Wind N 05 mph. Humidity: 46%
Forecast - Tonight Lo 29°. Thursday, sunny with  Hi 48° / Lo 29°. Friday, sunny with Hi 46° / Lo27°

Home from work I poured a glass of wine and sat comfortably on the river deck in a T-shirt and jeans. As the afternoon sun set the top of Drummer Mountain glowing, two bald eagles flew by, between them clucking an early mating song. But what caught my attention the most, here on this mid-February afternoon, was the ribitting (sp) of a frog. And it was this lone frog calling on a temperate winter afternoon which inspired this blog. The frog, like many of us, is an optimist in life.
The above image of the 'frog in ice' by Gary Nafis from this website:

The 1st image of this posting is from this afternoon looking eastward down the river valley to Drummer Mountain (NE of Curlew).
The above photograph of the Kettle River taken Monday evening 02.15.10 shows how little ice there is on the river. It is not unusual for the river to be frozen bank to bank this time of year.
And I'll close this post with a stock photo of mine of a bald eagle perched in a cottonwood watching the winter river flow by.
Take care, and enjoy the weather...

Friday, February 12, 2010

A 'lighter' shade of pale...

If I asked you what happened 20 years ago you might tell me;
  • Nelson Mandela was released from a South African jail.
  • The Sandinistas are defeated in Nicaraguan elections.
  • The Windows 3.0 operating system is released by Microsoft.
  • The pilot episode of Seinfeld premiers.
  • Re-unification of Germany. East Germany ceases to exist.
  • July 8th,1990 - At 12:34:56 the time and date by US reckoning was 12:34:56 7/8/9/0.
  • Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to lessen Cold War tensions and open up his nation.
    And if you told me any one of those events happened 20 years ago you’d be correct. But this week marks the 20th anniversary of one very special photograph. A very dramatic photograph. Though, at first glance, it's mostly dark and seems to show nothing at all. See the NASA photo below...

    From the NASA website referring to the “pale blue dot”…
    A recent photo from the Cassini spacecraft shows the mighty planet Saturn, and if you look very closely between its wing-like rings, a faint pinprick of light. That tiny dot is Earth bustling with life as we know it. The image is the second ever taken of our world from deep space. The first, captured by the Voyager spacecraft in 1990, stunned many people, including the famous astronomer Carl Sagan who called our seemingly miniscule planet a "pale blue dot" and "the only home we've ever known."
    • All images & illustrations courtesy of NASA. Be sure to check out the Clint Black 'Galaxy Song' video below...
      While not a scientist, I realize this plae blue dot we call Planet Earth is nothing short of fascinating. We know in the staggering vastness of our universe there very well may be another planet harboring life. Yet the sheer challenge of finding that ‘needle-in-a-hay-stack’ is an incredible task. On the other hand what science is showing us about our own planet is how absolutely unique it, and consequently, we are. Consider the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ image of our planet earth above. Now the words of the late astronomer Carl Sagan:

      “Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
      Lets start to draw this to a close with the lyrics to the GALAXY SONG (there's a video link of Clint Black doing this song embedded at the end of this post). And - Yes, the math is real...

      Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,
      And things seem hard, or tough,
      And people are stupid, obnoxious, or daft,
      And you feel that you've had quite enough,

      Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
      And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour, it's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
      Around a sun that is the source of all our power.
      The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
      Are moving at a million miles a day
      In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
      Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.

      Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
      It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
      It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
      But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.

      We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
      We go 'round every two hundred million years,
      And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
      In this amazing and expanding universe.

      The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
      In all of the directions it can whizz
      As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
      Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.

      So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
      How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
      And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, '
      Cause there isn't any down here on Earth...

      Here is a link to the NPR Pale Blue Dot story:

      Sunday, January 31, 2010

      The 'Wolf Moon' of January has just peaked...

      Amongst many North American native tribes the January moon is said to be called the Wolf Moon as wolves pack & hunt in the bright winter light of a full moon reflecting off a landscape of white snow.

      The below image of the "Wolf Moon" of this January 2010 is titled:

      Lets not forget the Wolf appears in human history beyond North American tribes: the wolf is with the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. Legend has it that the two brothers were raised and suckled by a she-wolf.

      In Norse mythology, the Wolf is a symbol for victory when ridden by Odin and the Valkyries upon the battlefield.

      As a Celtic symbol, the Wolf was a source of lunar power. Celtic lore states that the Wolf would hunt down the sun and devour it in the evening twilight allowing the power of the moon to come forth.

      In Asia, the wolf guards the doors that allow entrance to heavenly, celestial realms. The Wolf is also said to be among the ancestry of Genghis Khan.

      The Wolf is a complex creature communicating with touch, body movements, eye contact and complex vocal expressions – they are expressive both vocally and physically. Further, the Wolf possess a high intellect, and have been observed using strategies about hunting, habitat and migration.

      Here is a poem I found on-line - the author was listed as 'Werewulf14'...

      Howl to the moon
      Run the windswept moor
      Come dance with me under starlight
      In this place of myth and lore

      Run like the wild river
      through the trees of pine
      I am a child of the night
      And this wilderness is mine

      So come, grow claws of onyx
      And flashing teeth of white
      I roam the woods at dark
      And sleep while it is light

      Throw on your pelts of gray and dun
      of black and snowy white
      And run with me my friend
      For all the moonstruck night

      So howl with me to the moon
      Run with me through the pine
      I love the wood and moon and stars
      And all I love is mine

      Want more? Check out FULL MOON NAMES & THIER MEANINGS on the Farmers Almanac link below:

      Or Wikipedia's WOLF MOON page:

      Above image of howling wolf found on-line, artist unknown.

      Saturday, January 23, 2010

      The Nez Perce: A People in Exile

      I live along a river in a land that once was the northern portion of the Colville Indian Reservation. Often I allow my mind to drift upstream, rock to rill, back in time, long before the reservation, along the shores of this river before the arrival of the white man...
      Being fortunate to have a number of Native American friends I perceive the history of my 'Colville' neighbors, and subsequently this land, is more complex than most of us care to know or understand. I found this video, from the 2007 Spokesman Review video archive worth sharing: "When Chief Joseph said he would “fight no more forever” at the battle of Bear Paw, he gave up his rifle, but not his way of life or his claim to his ancestral land. Today, nearly 130 years after the last great battle of the Nez Perce War, descendants of the Joseph’s band continue his struggle to preserve the old ways, including their spoken language."

      I'm dedicating this blog post to a wonderful lady living up the mountain near Boulder Summit, in the Kettle River Range - Lucy Antoine who celebrated a birthday this week. She, a distant cousin of Chief Joseph, tells the story of hearing her elder kin refer to the great chief as 'Uncle Joe'. Happy birthday 'Ruby' Lucy...

      Friday, January 15, 2010


      The title of this blog post is also on the cover of the Ferry County VIEW, the monthly newspaper published by Digital Documents under the editorial eye of Greg Sheffield.
      The article that appeared within the The VIEW is the prime part of this posting, reproduced with permission from Mr. Sheffield, the photographs are mine, provided to The VIEW courtesy of the Curlew Fire Department. While I've only recently met Greg I can say he's a man of good timing. Unbeknownst to me Greg had been considering kicking off the 2010 series of The VIEW with an article about how to become a firefighter. He had the basic ideas in place when a tragic incident broke out in Curlew that focused attention not only on firefighters, but the terrible results uncontrolled fire can bring to our lives. When Mr. Sheffield contacted me I was glad his focus was on 'what it takes to be a firefighter'. At that time, just a few days after what is now called The Old School Fire, I was not interested in giving any further interviews about that recent tragedy. It worked out well that Fire Chief Tom Lindsey of Ferry/Okanogan Fire Protection District #13 was available when I called him with the invitation to join in on the scheduled interview with Greg. Chief Lindsey & part of the Republic Fire Department staff had responded in force to the Old School Fire to a mutual aid call from Curlew Fire. Here is the article that appeared in the January 2010 edition of the Ferry County VIEW:

      A few good men (and women)
      Volunteer firefighters protect our natural resources, property and lives
      By Greg Sheffield
      In the wee hours of Tuesday, December 22, the sharp tone of pagers abruptly tore dozens of Ferry County firefighters from their slumber. The dedicated men and women jumped from their beds, assembled at local fire halls for gear and equipment, and raced to the scene. From incident commander down to the tender operators, countless hours of planning, training, and equipment maintenance would again be put to the test.

      Structure fires are relatively rare. “On average we might respond to two to three structure fires a year,” says Ferry-Okanogan Fire Protection District #14 Chief John Foster Fanning. But the stakes are so high, as evidenced by the tragic loss of life in last week’s Curlew fire, that volunteer districts take preparation for them every bit as seriously as a professional department in a large city would.

      Training regimen
      The Wauconda-Republic-Malo-Curlew-Danville area is chiefly comprised of two fire protection districts. FPD #13 is based in Republic, and has three fire halls and about 28 volunteer firefighters. FPD #14 has its main hall in Curlew and three satellite halls in the field staffed by 26 firefighters and 8 EMS staff. Both districts provide ongoing training for members, with a mandatory minimum of two to four hours per month, and additional training opportunities that amount to as much as 80 hours per year.
      New members first learn about personal safety gear such as their protective clothing, as well as how to identify and mitigate safety risks on the scene. Subsequent sessions may focus on fire behavior, first aid, CPR, defibrillator use, how to operate specific pieces of fire apparatus, and wildfire suppression techniques. More advanced firefighters learn how to fill specific leadership roles. An engine leader, for example, not only learns how to properly place, secure and efficiently operate an engine, he must also understand how to safely direct the firefighters under his command.
      Eventually a member may even train as an officer or incident commander, who must assume responsibility for the safety of everyone on site, decide how to attack a fire or methods contain it, direct resources and/or call for more, provide for the needs (such as food, water, and rest) of everyone on scene, know when to release personnel, and make innumerable other decisions.
      After about three formal training sessions, the new recruit’s real training begins in the form of on-scene instruction. “In reality, 90% of training is on the job,” says FPD #13 Chief Tom Lindsey. Chief Foster likens the fire scene to concentric circles, with an innermost red center, surrounding yellow ring, and outermost green ring. A new firefighter will spend his first few incidents in the green zone, shuttling tools and equipment back and forth. Soon he might graduate to the yellow zone, operating fire apparatus. When the incident commander thinks he’s ready, the recruit will be allowed in the red zone and attack the fire directly. At all of these stages, a recruit will learn first by observation and then by participation.

      There is often a misconception that a firefighter must possess superhuman athletic talent, with the ability to carry 100 lbs. of gear up forty flights of stairs in 20 seconds flat. While physical condition is both a qualification for firefighter selection and a real asset on-scene, varied roles in the department have different levels of required fitness.
      “We require an annual fitness test of all our members,” says Chief Foster. “We assign one of three fitness levels based on a firefighter’s ability to walk a 15-minute mile with a reasonable heart rate recovery period. If you can do it with 45 pounds on your back, you qualify for ‘arduous’ duty; a 25 lb. load means ‘moderate’ duty, and you still qualify for ‘light’ duty if you can walk a 15-minute mile and recover. Of course pertaining to recruitment those who qualify for ‘arduous’ are more useful and therefore more desirable, but there are jobs that can be performed by those on ‘light’ duty.”
      “It costs $2500 in equipment to outfit a new firefighter, so what I’m really looking for is someone with dedication who wants to serve the community,” says Foster. “I should mention, too, that women are able to serve. We have six female firefighters in Curlew.”

      Additional opportunities
      One of the most challenging aspects of running a volunteer fire department is making a small budget stretch as far as possible. “Many of the skills our volunteers bring to the department have little to do with firefighting but are every bit as valuable,” says Chief Lindsey. “We have buildings, apparatus and all types of other equipment to maintain from radios to the fax machine. Whether it’s going down to NAPA to get a windshield wiper for an engine or performing routine maintenance on a pump, a lot of our guys serve in a variety of other ways that keep us going. On the Curlew Fire last week, when we got there every piece of apparatus worked … that’s essential.”

      Continued commitment
      Joining a volunteer fire department is a real commitment. Not only are there 40-80 hours of meetings and training per year, but there is the reality of economic loss when a fellow leaves his job or business to respond, as well as loss of time with family while away on a fire. While not every firefighter is able to respond to every call, it takes real devotion to one’s fellow man to make such sacrifices to protect the property and lives of others. Fortunately there are over fifty such dedicated people in the county right now, as well as dozens or even hundreds who have faithfully served in the past but are now retired.
      Firefighters needed
      Both districts #13 (Republic) and #14 (Curlew) are seeking additional volunteers in all areas. Increased numbers spread the workload and increase the likelihood that sufficient personnel will be available to answer every call.
      Republic in particular has a need for volunteers who live or work on the east side of Curlew Lake for assignment to the East Curlew Lake fire hall. Most homeowners insurance policies provide a discount for homes located within a certain radius of a fire station, and the East Curlew Lake hall needs just three more members to be considered fully manned so that nearby owners may qualify for the insurance discount.
      If you are interested in applying for membership with one of our local fire protection districts, or simply need additional information, contact Chief Lindsey at 775-2033 or Chief Foster at 779-4766.
      The Gadgets of Firefighting

      Editor’s Note: Research for this article began before the recent tragic fire at the Old School Apartments in Curlew which as of publication was presumed to have taken at least three lives. The staff of the Ferry County View extends its deepest sympathy to the families of those lost.
      I'd like to thank Greg Sheffield and his staff at Digital Documents for partnering with FIREWATER blog and providing the above article and "gadgets" image.
      This is a good time to again thank the firefighting community for their dedication, commitment to training, willingness to step forward at very difficult times, in dangerous conditions and give so generously to their community. I am humbled by your strength & dedication.
      Fire Chief, FY/OK FPD #14