GEE AND URSULA

Wildfires in Winthrop are becoming ‘horrendous annual tradition’

Jul 24, 2021, 6:56 AM
winthrop, fire...
The Cub Creek Fire near Winthrop, Washington, in July 2021. (Photo courtesy of CamanoFire/Twitter)
(Photo courtesy of CamanoFire/Twitter)

Winthrop, Wash., has been sandwiched between two huge wildfires this week, and on Thursday morning had the poorest air quality in the United States.

With fires ‘smashing records,’ state closes DNR lands in Eastern Washington

For perspective on just how big these wildfires are, imagine you are in downtown Seattle and the entire city of Bellevue and Mercer Island are now in flames. That is how big the Cub Creek Fire is and how close to Winthrop. And there’s a second fire, the Cedar Creek Fire, also burning to the west of Winthrop.

KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show spoke with a friend and former colleague, Val Stouffer, who lives in Winthrop. She moved there for the natural beauty, but has faced wildfire seasons almost every summer.

“It’s a lovely place. And we have been coming out here for a long time, since the mid-90s, and moved out here as permanent residents five years ago,” Stouffer said. “Four out of our five summers here, we have been significantly impacted by wildfires in some way, shape, or form. So sadly, this has kind of turned into a horrendous annual tradition for us out here, and really throughout Eastern Washington.”

While it’s tough to deal with, Stouffer doesn’t plan on moving back anytime soon.

‘The sad truth of this is it seems like wherever you go anymore, there’s always like reported the 100-year flood, the 100-year fire, the 100-year hurricane, the 100-year tsunami, and it seems like these are just happening every year,” she said. “So, Gee, if you can suggest a place to go where it’s going to be great and smooth sailing all the time, please share because I’m sure a lot of us would like to know.”

Thankfully, Stouffers says the local community in Winthrop is very strong.

“This community out here is so strong and so wonderful that we’re going to get through this. It’s not pleasant. It’s not fun. It almost feels like I’m living in a war zone because it’s minute to minute,” she said. “We’re in, right at the moment where we’re situated, just a mile outside of Winthrop, we are in a zone that’s between the two evacuation zones for the two fires. So for some reason, we’re fortunate enough to not be in any immediate danger, as we talk right now at 10:20.”

“After quite a snowy winter, we had a very dry, very windy spring, the snowpack melted early, and then we had the extreme heat in June, which normally it doesn’t heat up until about this time of year and into August, but we had like 113, 109 degree days in late June,” Stouffer explained. “So this area was really primed for something to happen. And then on July 8, we had the lightning strike that started the Cedar Creek Fire, and the Cub Creek Fire started last Friday.”

The air quality has also been a big issue for Winthrop, and Stouffers says it’s been “absolutely horrendous.”

“As I’m talking to you right now, we’re just below 200, which feels like a breath of fresh air because we were at 725 yesterday morning, so I had to wear an N-95 mask to walk my dog,” she said.

Smoke from Washington wildfires dodges Puget Sound, ends up in New York

As far as how the community is coming together, Stouffer says everyone is helping out.

“As soon as a level three evacuation notice goes out for a particular area, and a number of them have, including the neighborhood where we moved in 2016. We had a rental house in a neighborhood that went on level three last night. And people are instantly volunteering their spaces,” she said.

“Another impact of this is people with livestock and animals and evacuating them, there are some wonderful people in a great organization that’s working really hard to make sure that there’s enough hay for these animals, to help trailer them out of the danger area,” she added. “And there’s just overall the deepest gratitude we can express for the fire crews that are out there doing an amazing job. They’re putting their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. So there is profound sadness for all this loss, the loss of the beauty. But there’s also this really strong spirit out here that unites us, and I think it’s going to help keep us going through this.”

The last thing Stouffer added was for people to hold off on visits to Winthrop for now.

“Please don’t come out here right now,” she said. “… The roads are closed out here, basically, the air is horrible, as we discussed, all the trails are closed out here, the land is basically closed. So we will welcome you and everybody else with open arms once we get this under control. But this is not a good time to come out, unless you have an absolute emergency you need to be here.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Gee and Ursula Show

Gee and Ursula

vaccine, kids...
Gee and Ursula Show

Virologist: ‘Time interval’ between doses will be important in vaccinations for kids

Dr. Rasmussen explains why, in her opinion, there should be enough clinical data to support emergency authorization of a vaccine for kids ages 5-11.
1 day ago
Sara Nelson...
Gee and Ursula Show

Seattle council candidate Sara Nelson outlines plan for homelessness, policing

Seattle City Council Position 9 candidate Sara Nelson calls for added encampment sweeps and police accountability over defunding.
4 days ago
masking...
Gee and Ursula Show

Superintendent: More ‘issues with adults’ over masking rule than students

The state Superintendent says things are going "pretty darn well" as schools reopened. He credits that success to COVID rules, which include masking.
6 days ago
Vaccine mandate...
Gee and Ursula Show

With Washington’s vaccine mandate deadline imminent, a minority chooses resignation

KIRO Radio speaks with the minority coalition which has decided to take a stand against the vaccine mandate and accept termination or resignation.
7 days ago
students, vaccine...
Gee and Ursula Show

State Superintendent says any future vaccine mandate for students will be ‘statewide’

The state Superintendent of Public Instruction says there won't be a vaccine mandate for students until there's full federal approval of a vaccine for kids.
8 days ago
Seattle City Attorney abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, candidate...
Gee and Ursula Show

‘I didn’t think anybody took me that seriously,’ Seattle candidate says about anti-police tweets

Seattle city attorney candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy tells Gee and Ursula how she would run the office and responds to tweets she posted in 2020.
14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Wildfires in Winthrop are becoming ‘horrendous annual tradition’