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Here's how bad western wildfires are getting: Not only are dozens of homes burning in central Washington near Cle Elum and two towns preparing for evacuation in Idaho, but 250 rafters were stranded for up to two days on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, after authorities closed a backcountry access road due to falling boulders and debris caused by wildfire. Authorities shuttled the stranded floaters out this morning with pilot cars, but this afternoon, more debris came down and the road closed again. That means as more rafters head down the Middle Fork to the Main Salmon, the point where they typically board buses for the trip out after a six-day rafting trip, they, too, could face delays.
There was a steady stream of traffic leaving Pine and Featherville today as the residents of the two small communities were advised to pack up their belongs as the Trinity Ridge fire approaches, reports AP reporter Jessie Bonner; that blaze has burned more than 100 square miles in the past two weeks and is headed for the outskirts of Featherville. "It's not a question of if, but when," Boise National Forest spokesman Dave Olson told the AP; click below for the full report. National Interagency Fire Center spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said fires have intensified in recent days in Washington, northern California and Nevada. "Nevada has been hammered," she said, "and Idaho has some big ones that are going to burn until the snow falls."
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Fire managers are trying to gather residents of two small central Idaho towns to discuss evacuation plans as the Trinity Ridge wildfire grows closer. The Great Basin National Incident Management Team announced that a meeting would be held at 10:30 Wednesday morning at the Pine Senior Center to discuss evacuation plans for Featherville and Pine with residents. The Trinity Ridge fire is burning on about 100 square miles just 7 miles from Featherville, and it's showing extreme fire behavior, with embers lighting new blazes far from the main body of the flames. Campers in the area have already been evacuated, and officials are warning residents of Atlanta to evacuate if they have respiratory health problems.
On vacation in Hawaii, we were under an evacuation order two nights ago, when the tsunami threatened the islands. We have a family group here and so we loaded in baby and toddler and adults in two vans and headed for higher ground, which turned out to be a parking lot of a shopping mall, and then a few hours later, when it was feared the waves might be even higher than predicted, we moved to a huge grassy field, an event parking lot though it never became clear what kind of event might happen there.
We listened to the radio all night in one van while babies slept in another. Because it was later in Spokane, and even later on the East Coast, where we have relatives, there was much texting going on. We have a relative from Japan and prayed and worried about her family. And it was reassuring in the dark night to know we had so many folks with us in spirit and in texting, as we were with the family we know in Japan.
The parking lot security guide showed much kindness to all parked there, opening the bathrooms. And then at the event field, where hundreds of cars gathered, people were kind to one another, sharing information.
At about 6 in the morning, we all returned to condos near the beach. The waves didn't amount to what had been feared. No damage where we were staying, but we turned on TV to see the horror in Japan.
In times when extraordinary events interrupt routine — or vacation — the same things matter and transcend all. The hope you aren't alone. And how much kindness matters.