Friday, August 21, 2015

Idaho, a Wedding, and Wildfires

Backcountry Roads Idaho by Lynna Howard & Leland Howard
This month I traveled to Idaho for the first time in order to attend my oldest son's wedding.  I had a lovely time and will probably tell the tales later.  Today, I will focus on my thoughts on the wildfires.

Boise, is gorgeous. The landscape from Boise to McCall was not at all as I had expected. I expected potatoes. And flat, patchworked green farmland similar to Indiana.  Most of Idaho's landscape was not as I had expected.  Leaving Idaho, the large hills were dirt and some sort of short brush.  Much more dry than I had imagined.

As I drove along Highway 55 to McCall, the landscape turned more green and dramatic as the s-curved road ran along the gorgeous Payette River. 

When I emerged from the river valley, I could see smoke from the wildfires in the distance. I remembered overhearing the conversation at the car rental desk - wildfires had closed a nearby highway.  I began to feel anxious as I watched the plumes of smoke rising from the ridges. I had no idea how close the wildfires were to my accommodations.  I know how to hunker down during a midwestern tornado warning and have learned how to prepare for the east coast tropical storm. But I have no idea how to be prepared for a wildfire. 

While it ended up that the wildfires were not close enough to disrupt the wedding or cause evacuations where we were, the skies were often smoke-filled. During one evening, little bits of ash fell from the sky as we sat on a balcony watching shooting stars.

Following the wedding, as I drove back to Boise to catch my flight home, the fire activity had moved closer.  Emergency helicopters were parked in a field along the road and the mountains were hidden by smoke.

Since the time I lifted off the ground and flew over those smoky mountains of Idaho, I have kept an ear to the news reports of the wildfires. California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho continue to burn.  I have thought about the folks I met at the wedding who were returning to their homes in those states - hopeful that the fires didn't move any closer to their homes.  I cried for the firefighters who lost their lives and I worry about the firefighters and military who continue to go toward the flames to fight them.

I have a new understanding and respect for wildfires, the people who have to prepare to flee them, and the heroes who fight them.  I pray the fires end soon. And I can't wait to travel back to beautiful Idaho.