Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

As The Blue Creek Fire Grows, Some Walla Walla Residents Prepare To Leave

Mark Klicker
Smoke hangs in the air after fire east of Walla Walla, Washington, swept through about 1,000 acres of the Klicker family's timber, sparing some.

The Blue Creek Fire burning 10 miles east of Walla Walla, Washington, has grown to 5.500 acres and is the top priority fire in the Northwest for federal resource managers.

By Wednesday there were about 1,000 firefighters on the Blue Creek Fire. But that isn’t giving Kari Tupper much sleep. She hasn’t changed clothes in two days since she’s been packing up her valuables and preparing her home near Biscuit Ridge as best she can.

Still, she was surprised how quickly she decided what to take from her house.

“I took about 15 things that remind me, 20 things, really everything that I could get my hands on that my dad made," Tupper said at a town meeting Wednesday night. "He was a woodworker and he died recently so that was important to me.”

She’s afraid to sleep at home since there’s only one way in and out -- on a primitive mountain road. Tupper was wearing her mother and grandmother's wedding rings because she didn’t know where else safe to put them. And she had packed up a box of her parents’ love letters.

Mark Klicker's family harvests timber on Klicker Mountain. He found out this week the fire had swept through 1,000 acres of their land.

“You know, it really is gut-wrenching,” Klicker said. “Kinda like you ate the wrong food. You have a hard time recovering and you feel helpless 'cause you really can't get up there. When the crews are up there trying to do their job, you're helpless.”

“Things will probably be OK on our end,” he continued. “It just depends on if this fire pops over into the watershed. So hopefully they can keep it from doing that."

Klicker came to the town meeting in Walla Walla Wednesday night after he surveyed the damage. He found some timber destroyed, and in other areas all that burned was debris under the canopy. A greater loss, he says, would be one's home.

The Blue Creek Fire has destroyed one structure and seven outbuildings.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.