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Tue., Aug. 5, 2014, 1:02 p.m.

Smoke makes return to Spokane bittersweet

While Glacier Peak and Mount Baker poke up into blue skies on the morning of Aug. 5, 2014, smoke from the Carlton Complex wildfires in the Methow Valley and newer fires near Leavenworth spew smoke that spreads across northeastern Washington. (Rich Landers)
While Glacier Peak and Mount Baker poke up into blue skies on the morning of Aug. 5, 2014, smoke from the Carlton Complex wildfires in the Methow Valley and newer fires near Leavenworth spew smoke that spreads across northeastern Washington. (Rich Landers)

WILDFIRES -- Fond memories of more than two weeks of adventuring in Bolivia were dashed this morning as Horizon Airlines gave me an aerial tour of the hardship the region has suffered from wildfires while I've been gone.

My return flight from Seattle to Spokane began with Glacier Peak and Mount Baker (top in photo above) rising into beautiful blue skies that deteriorated into a pall of smoke spreading eastward from just east of the Cascades crest.

The Carlton Complex fires are still burning in the Methow Valley region (top smoke cloud in photo above) and forest fires just northwest of Leavenworth (lower smoke plume in photo) are adding to the smoke issue. The Okanogan-Wenatchee national forests are reporting that weekend lightning storms ignited more than 25 fires in the area, mostly small, but significant in all.

  • Trail and area closures are in effect for public and firefighter safety.  Contact local ranger district offices or go to the forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/okawen  for closure information.

While away, I've used the Internet to scan stories of the South Hill Bluff fire, the Greenbluff fires, the Fishtrap Lake-area fire, the big wind storm that toppled trees and left thousands of homes without power, and the ongoing Carlton Complex fires that have burned hundreds of homes and toasted mule deer winter range.

Sun Mountain Lodge near Winthrop was evacuated until firefighters took control of fire and power was restored in that area and the popular destination resort was reopened. Drive up the North Cascades Highway a ways and you can hike to Cutthroat Lake under clear, bluebird skies.

Cruel.

Today, I got an aerial reality check.

Fires are burning elsewhere, too, including the uncontained 19,000-acre Big Cougar Fire burning in rough Snake River country 24 miles south of Lewiston and the1,250-acre High Range fire near White Bird, Idaho.

 




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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