For weeks now, we haven’t seen much blue sky, but a smokey haze from horizon to horizon from the forest fires in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The sunlight these past few weeks have been impeded by the firestorms around us. The ground everywhere is dry and dusty. The lush greenery covering the forest floor is dying off and turning brown before the beginning of autumn. People in the area are uneasy and some are creating contingency plans in case of a fire caused from future lightning storms, which are in increase due to the smoke pollution.
This is by far the driest season we experienced in the past 5 years we have lived in Northern Idaho, and a few locals we know who have lived here most of their lives concur they haven’t seen a summer equal to it. During the Fourth of July, people were already sensitive to the sincerity of our situation and many home fireworks shows were cancelled by homeowners to prevent potential problems from developing. The Stage II fire alert has been in affect since July 14 and chainsaws go silent after 1:00 pm in the afternoon as per regulation. Here is a map of the current fire restrictions. The Northwest is facing some serious fire threats this summer because we did not receive the moist rainy June as usual. Instead our heat of the summer and heat waves were early, drying everything out months before the fall rains. When passing the fire alert sign we have seen “extreme” for almost two months now. After living in the northwest my entire life, I can’t remember it ever being this bad. The fires are bad enough that there have been reports of firefighters losing their lives, homes being lost, large quantities of forests being destroyed, and the list goes on.
However, history records other events in 1910 known as the Big Blowup, which forest fires devastated large portions of Idaho, Washington, and Montana. A hundred and five years later and with a month of potential drought conditions remaining, 2015 maybe given a name to match that of the Big Blowup.
Living off the grid during fire season is unnerving. Our ten acres is surrounded by state and private forest land. As the smoke from the forest fires increase, the smoke affects the weather creating more dry thunderstorms and potential lightning strikes making the problem even worse.
As far as summer chores being accomplished, gathering firewood is almost at a standstill. My wife and I thankfully had already accomplished gathering 8 cords of wood for next year and have neatly cut, split, and stacked it with another cord on the ground to spare. With the continued smoke filled skies, we had to add forest fires and smoke to the list of situations that affect our solar panels power production. For over a week now the smoke has been so thick that our panels are producing half of what they normally produce. In our garden the large leaves of the squash plants are dotted with ash that trickles down upon us like snow from a fire over 30 miles away. We will wait and see if the smokey cover will affect our garden and orchard’s production before the first fall frost.
To end this post, we are simply praying for rain. I have enjoyed the sun this summer, but as in all things, an excess of one thing isn’t always a good thing.