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'Apocalyptic' Chelan Complex Fires Give Lake A Ghostly Quality

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Smoke hangs over the Columbia River and the landscape burned by wildfires north of Chelan, Washington.

Fires continue to burn around Lake Chelan in central Washington with the smoke now visible from space. Firefighters have the Chelan Complex fires about 60 percent contained but they're still battling other blazes and its unclear when all fires will be under control.

Fewer people are now under evacuation orders, but about 1,000 are still unable to return to their homes. And the area has taken on a ghostly quality.

It’s pretty apocalyptic. It looks weird and it smells weird. Your lungs hurt and your nose runs. It’s just kind of gross.

It’s like something out of Pinocchio’s ‘Land of Toys’ -- everything is set up for fun but not much fun is being had. There are water parks, jet skis and boats. There are restaurants and little cute shops and boutiques with lace in the windows. But they are all closed up.

One woman on the south shore of Lake Chelan looked really tired and hot and stressed out. She said she went into town to pick up her mail and she really had trouble doing that because she didn’t know if it would be the last time she would see her house.

She wasn’t sure whether she should just load her car up to the gunwales with all of her possessions or take it on faith that it would all be there when she returned.

She said it’s really tough to go to sleep at night because she checks all the news, she listens to the radio, she watches TV she looks at the Internet and then she goes to bed hoping that she won’t have to wake up in a panic in the middle of the night to leave her house.

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.