Watch: Drunk camper makes quick escape from Washington wildfire
A fun trip interrupted by fast-moving forest fires left a of couple campers, who had admittedly been imbibing in some spirits, with a tough dilemma about how to evacuate.
Brett tells KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that when he arrived at the Alta Lake campground, there were no apparent signs they were in imminent danger. The campground was full of people. He and a friend stayed one full night without any problems.
“Woke up the next morning, everything was fine, went and got some lunch, came back and we decided to crack open a few brews because we were camping,” said Brett, who added they were planning to stay the night and had no plans to be on the road.
“Then lo and behold, we have some park rangers come by mid-party telling us we’ve got to get our stuff and go, and if our tent is not expensive, we should leave it.”
Brett said he and his friend were in no condition to legally operate a motor vehicle.
“We’re sitting here like ‘what the heck are we supposed to do,'” he said. “He [the ranger] is like ‘you guys need to go. This isn’t a joke.’ He was dead serious. He was like ‘you guys need to figure it out. This is the danger here.'”
Brett said there was still a full campground of people the ranger had to deal with, “so he’s not sitting there trying to hang out with us and hold our hands.”
They decided to quickly pack up their stuff and proceed cautiously from the campground.
“We ended up pulling out and we just went in tandem together, went really slow,” said Brett, who had another reason to keep speeds low.
“I had a flat tire in the middle of all this, so I’m using a can of Fix-A-Flat before we pulled out of the campground. So my tire was OK, but that was a saving grace too because I didn’t want to drive too fast on a limping tire.”
They made it to a local Walmart about 25 miles away where he said all kinds of people — campers like them along with locals facing the loss of their homes — were taking shelter because it was open 24 hours.
Brett said he felt guilty about driving under the influence, saying it’s not something he does in ordinary life. But even Dori Monson, a strong opponent of drunk driving, said it didn’t seem like he had too many options.
“I don’t see any other way for you. I don’t blame you one bit,” said Dori.
With everything going on, Brett said even if he was pulled over, he figured the authorities might have looked the other way.
“I honestly think state patrol would have understood my plight just from the sheer calamity. It was chaos,” Brett said. “We pulled out from the campsite and I’m at the top of the hill, I’m driving down to the valley, and all I can see is the hillside just on fire. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It was unreal.”
And for anyone who doesn’t find themselves in the exceptional situation he was facing, with a wildfire fast approaching when you’ve had a few too many, he said: “Don’t drink and drive.”