Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Conconully, Washington — Bryan Smith feels lucky to be alive after a mass of mud, rocks, water and logs chased him a quarter-mile down a twisty Forest Service road Wednesday evening. He was driving his pickup in reverse with a 35-foot trailer hitched to it at the time.

Bryon Goetz, meanwhile, spent an anxious night with his 3-year-old son stranded at Salmon Meadows Campground north of Conconully, where he and Smith planned to drop off their trailers and return on Friday after work, ready to relax and enjoy the three-day weekend.

“If they’d have gone in as a group, someone could have gotten killed,” said Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers, who headed Thursday’s rescue of three families stranded by the mudslide. He said there’s no way two vehicles pulling trailers could have backed out quickly enough to escape without someone getting broadsided and swept into the rushing creek.

A quarter-mile of Salmon Creek Road was covered in debris measuring 6 feet deep in spots. An Okanogan County Public Works crew and the sheriff’s search and rescue team spent much of Thursday clearing a temporary path so the campers could drive out.

Smith was on his way to the campground at the end of the road Wednesday just as it broke loose. He said he saw movement in the bushes, and was watching for an animal when a log come shooting out of the woods in front of him, followed by water and debris.

“I started to back up, thinking it was going across the road. But then, the whole hillside started to come down. So I started backing up even faster. I looked out my window and I could see the hillside coming down next to me. I was backing up and it was coming, coming, coming,” he remembered. He said he could hear the engine of his pickup straining to keep up with his demands. “It was like something you see on TV, but I was in the middle of it,” he said.

When the wall of mud came to within 10 feet of his truck, he prepared to jump out and run up a hill, thinking how grateful he was that his 9-year-old son decided to stay home and play Wii instead of coming along to help set up camp. Soon after, the flow slowed, and he backed over a bridge to safety. He said the noise of it amazed him. “You could hear the boulders going down the creek, and all the trees breaking. It was something else.”

Smith figures Goetz and his boy were 5 minutes ahead of him on Salmon Creek Road, and also barely missed getting broadsided by the mudslide.

Goetz said after waiting for about two hours, he thought Smith must have broken down, so he drove back down and discovered the road covered with deep mud and impassible. He called out to report the slide, and make sure Smith was all right.

On Thursday, Okanogan County Public Works Department employees cleared a temporary path and escorted three pickup trucks towing camp trailers, and a motorhome, out of the area.

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The next time you’re planning a camping trip, the states of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon want you to think about protecting your favorite outdoor haunts by not moving firewood. The Buy It Where You Burn It campaign encourages people to obtain their firewood in a place as close as possible to the place where it will be burned.

Firewood is a high-risk vector for wood-boring insects such as emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, two species responsible for widespread defoliation of forests in Midwest and Eastern states. Washington, Oregon, and Idaho teamed up to spread the word about the potential dangers of transporting firewood carrying live invasive insects and diseases using grant funding from the 2010 Farm Bill. The campaign launched in full force July 15.

The tri-state $481,000 campaign includes billboards and radio spots, firewood exchange programs, biodegradable flying discs and playing cards with “Don’t Move Firewood” messages, and pre- and post-awareness surveys conducted by Oregon State University to determine the effectiveness of outreach.

The Oregon Invasive Species Council (OISC) led the development of a grant to launch an outreach and education campaign with Washington and Idaho to inform the public about the many insect and fungal invasive species and diseases that can be spread by moving untreated firewood.

“Just about anyone that goes camping or spends time outdoors enjoys a campfire,” said OISC Chair Sam Chan. “But we need the public’s ass istance to buy and burn firewood locally, not transport firewood beyond local distances, or use heat-treated firewood. Otherwise, the potential exists to introduce species like the emerald ash borer and wood boring insects that have decimated forests in the Eastern United States and threaten millions of forested acres in the West. We recognize that invasive species don’t acknowledge state lines, therefore, we asked Idaho and Washington to partner with us in this campaign to protect the Pacific Northwest.”

People have traditionally moved firewood to favorite camp spots and even new homes without recognizing the threat posed by firewood as a pathway for the movement of invasive species.

What are individual states doing to lessen the threat caused by insects and diseases in firewood? Some states have placed restrictions on out-of-state firewood unless it has been heat treated, while other states discourage people from moving firewood within the state — buy local and burn local. Outreach programs have been launched in most states, and a national website,, provides excellent information on not moving firewood.

“Hopefully, when people plan their next trip, whether it be camping, hunting, fishing, or moving their residence, they’ll make the right choice for Oregon and leave their firewood behind, and then buy and burn local or heat-treated firewood,” said Chan. “This is one invasive species issue where literally everyone can make a difference.”

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