Catastrophic Fire and Making Progress

September 11, 2015  •  4 Comments

Much has happened since my last post.  We were in the midst of a catastrophic wildland fire (not in the area of the project, but in the area of our cabin where we are currently living).  We were evacuated for about ten days of uncertainty.  Meanwhile Matt and the various subcontractors have been making great progress on the house in Wenatchee.  

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On Wednesday August 19, we learned of a brush fire that started about five miles away from where we are currently living during the construction.  Initially we thought the fire would be put out quickly due to it being close to the town of Twisp meaning there would be a quick and effective response.  Updates indicated the fire was getting bigger.  I heard air traffic above and went outside.  I could see a large and wide column of smoke rising behind the ridge.  We decided to pack important items and evacuate because five miles is not a lot of distance from an expanding fire in the dry conditions and gusty wind.  There was no evacuation notification, it just seemed like common sense due to the proximity of the fire. We later learned that it was a Level 3 (GET OUT NOW!) evacuation for our area.  We are in an area where self sufficiency and self preservation is up to the individual not some government entity.  The entities were busy with the fire.  Three US Forest Service Firefighters were killed in the initial response to this fire.  This has been the worst wildfire season in Washington in recorded history.


We camped the first night at the house under construction in Wenatchee which is about two hours away from the cabin and the fire.  I thought there was a good chance that we could be evacuated for a week or two, or possibly indefinitely if the fire burned far enough.  The first night was calm, clear and pleasant.  We sat in the back yard area of the house and looked up at the bright stars.  The smoke was blowing a different way and there was little light pollution to get in the way of the view.  After a night of camping we decided showers, beds and internet would be nice if this was a prolonged event.  We spent the next ten days in a motel in East Wenatchee.  The accommodations were Spartan.  The people working there were very nice, but the quality of our stay was dependent on the neighbors of the night.  Sometimes it was quiet, other times not.  One night the upstairs neighbor(s) came in at about 2:00 am and it sounded like they were unpacking a big bag of oranges and dropping them on the floor one at a time.  Other nights it sounded like there were parties starting at 11:30 involving boisterous men, women and children.   I did not take too many fire related photographs.  I really did not feel it was a good idea to be anywhere near the operations.  There was enough media in the area with more access and a more legitimate reason to be .  I did see a Sikorsky S-64 Sky Crain descend onto the Methow River as I was driving by.  This helicopter is able to hover above as little as 18 inches of water and fill its 2,600 gallon water tank within 45 seconds using a snorkel to suck up the water.  The cattle in the lower left corner behind the brush seem unconcerned.

Sikorsky S-64 Sky CrainSikorsky S-64 Sky Crain lifting off after filling out of the Methow River.

Here is the edge of the fire that came over the ridge and within a half mile of our cabin.  We were glad to be able to return to our unburnt cabin.  We also deeply appreciate the hard work of the firefighters and emergency responders and especially the sacrifices made by those who were killed or injured while fighting this fire.


untitled shoot-3385editedNorthern Edge of the Twisp River Fire


Heavy machinery is ready to clear fire lines.


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Meanwhile much has been done on the construction project.  The concrete floors were stained.  This photograph shows the initial process.  They will eventually be cleaned and sealed giving them a mottled and shiny surface.


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Matt and Kyle (K&M Plumbing) drain and clean the cistern for the water system and make it ready for installation of the pump and switches.

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Drywall was installed.  Here is the future kitchen under the loft.

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While drywall was installed inside, Ben and Hilario completed the siding.  We wanted part of the house sided with lap siding and other parts to be sided with panels to add visual interest to the structure.

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All the siding is a concrete product (Hardie) to be insect and rot resistant, and more importantly resistant to fire.  Cutting it is a dusty process which requires personal protective equipment.

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Ben has an audience of the dog gang.

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Mike Ogle (Mogle Excavating) begins the construction of retaining walls between the house and garage.

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Matt’s dog, Schatzi, takes a mud bath break near the cistern. It is always more amusing when it is someone else’s dog.

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It has been an intense couple of weeks that have emphasized the importance of designing a house and surrounding land with fire prevention and safety in mind.  We will be putting in sprinklers to maintain a defensible space, and I will continue to work on the surrounding forest to make it less prone to catastrophic wild fire.


Awesome progress despite some unwelcomed interruptions Bob. You guys getting close enough to have a projected turn over date? I remember from our cabin that the end game takes way longer than one would expect. Know anyone with a drone? I think it would make a beautiful video of your house and the surrounding views.
Diane Davis(non-registered)
Wow - lovely photos of the progression of your beautiful new home. I particularly enjoy the animal shots - that lab puppy is adorable and the dog in the mud bath is brilliant! And you're right, Bob - it's so much cuter when it's someone else's dog getting that filthy!! I'm glad that you guys are doing well - you certainly know how to fill your days as "empty nesters"!!!
Sobering to read the details of the fire and your evacuation. As Bailey said, so glad that the fires are behind you. Love to see the progress of your beautiful home and love the dog pictures!
Glad I caught this as trying to decrease my online time. Great progress. So glad the fire is behind you and it's finally close to the end of fire season. Gorgeous again on this side of mountain after some cold and much needed wet stuff. Keep the updates coming. Was the dog escaping the heat or just beautifying?
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