Yesterday and today, the smokey air from the wildfires in eastern Washington and Oregon has engulfed us in a hazy reek. There is a definite smell of wood smoke and creosote in the air as if from a badly tuned stove. Even the light is other worldly. Sunshine coming through skylights and windows has an odd red-orange cast.
Looking southeast, this is Skagit Bay, the northern-most reach of Puget Sound. The smoke has taken an amazing route to get here. From east of the Cascade Mountains, it travels down the Columbia River Gorge, then up the Puget Sound Basin. West of the mountains, Portland, Oregon has been getting the worst of it. Even here in Skagit County, breathing the air produces irritation in the nose and throat. I can't imagine what it must be like in the vicinity of the fires.
Last week, three firefighters were killed when their vehicle crashed and the flames rushed over them. A fourth is in critical condition in the burn unit at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center.
The scope of these fires is unprecedented. Entire communities have been evacuated. Firefighters from as far away as Australia and New Zealand have come to assist. Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have also been deployed. What we really need, of course, is rain. Lots of rain.