Wednesday, September 6, 2017

smoke and sorrow

I don't want to see your house burn.  I've seen it before, and it is a beautiful and terrible thing, the flames almost seeming alive as they climb the walls and curl around the windows.  Don't be mistaken: even if we call your home a "structure" or even fuel for a fire, it hurts our hearts if we can't save it.

Two weeks ago I flew to a historic chalet in the park to evacuate guests and take out belongings and gear for the staff.  The building stood in this wild and lonely spot since 1913, providing a rustic place to sleep for anyone lucky enough to reserve a space.  This year it sold out in about five minutes.  The pilot and I wandered through the chalet, picking out which rooms we would want to stay in.  The fire was a long ways off,  creeping around in the next drainage.  Maybe it would never get there.

But it didn't rain.  The weather stayed hot and dry for the next two weeks, and the winds increased, pushing the fire up the mountain.  The firefighters made their stand one night against an ember shower, running hoses and sprinklers in a desperate fight.  Four helicopters dropped water, but in the end the chalet caught fire and lit up the night like a giant candle.  It was gone in an hour.

There is a deep sadness here;  so many of us remember hiking to this spot and seeing the chalet finally appear after several miles of steep trail.  It was a place loved by people throughout the world.  It was only a building, but it was full of over a hundred years of memories.

Still, everyone is safe.  The firefighters were able to save the other buildings and they were uninjured in the firefight.  Perhaps the chalet will be rebuilt someday.  Until then, I'm grateful I got to visit it, both on foot and by air.  Now we continue the fight.  There are houses and people still in harm's way.  We will do everything we can to keep the fires from their doors.

My last view of the chalet


5 comments:

  1. Ohhh. I knew about the chalet, but reading your first hand account is so sad. You firefighters made such an effort; rescued all the occupants who were left and tried so hard to save it, even at risk. The lives are more important than the building, but so many will also be so sad. If it can be rebuilt, I know there are former occupants all over the world who would help. Stayed at Granite Park Chalet but never at Sperry. Thanks for posting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really liked the chalet. There's rumors that it may be rebuilt.

      Delete
  2. I heard about the loss of this chalet. So sad. Sounds like a valiant effort was made by the firefighters to save it. I spoke with my son the other day and he said although the fires in MT have been awful, at least the loss of homes has been minimal compared to the thousands of folks who lost their homes to the hurricane in Houston. I'm sure it's because of the firefighter's efforts that the property damage in MT has not been greater.

    Here in Oregon, there is currently a huge fire that is destroying my beloved Columbia River Gorge and I'm just sick about it. But at least no homes or lives have been lost thus far.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I heard about that fire. It's terrible that someone would play with fireworks or smoke bombs. At least most of ours are lightning and natural starts.

      Delete
  3. Just once again, thank you for the work you and your colleagues (from minions to hotshots) do to save lives, homes/structures, and as much of the beauty of the earth as you can. Love, Ant

    ReplyDelete

I try to answer all comments, so comment away!