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|