MALAGA — Greg Simmons had three snowmobiles in one of the seven outbuildings on his 60 acres up Colockum Creek.
After the Colockum Tarps Fire destroyed most everything he owns, he can’t see even a trace of where the machines were.
“That shows you how hot the fire must have burned,” he said late Monday at a community briefing with firefighters at the Malaga fire station.
About 60 people, including many members of the fire-ravaged Colockum and Tarpiscan areas, filled the small fire station as smoke filled the air from the fire burning farther south.
His house isn’t livable, but it’s still there.
“How it survived, I have no idea,” Simmons said, his 10-year-old daughter Ashley by his side.
Simmons and Ashley were on their way to Ashley’s softball game in the Seattle area Saturday when his wife, Jodi, called.
A fire was burning around their property. It didn’t seem too bad at the time, she said, but he’d better head back.
They got home just ahead of the flames. A local firefighter rig was on it, Simmons said. The family was told to leave, but they resisted.
As fire approached around them, they began “shoveling” all they could into the backs of trucks. Neighbors helped move some machinery, first to the upper part of a field, but then to an orchard area when flames approached. They also helped get the family’s four horses loaded and moved.
“Pictures, slides. I can’t believe I forgot the reels and reels of slides of the kids,” he said. “I stood at my mailbox and watched the whole thing go down.”
The family, which also includes 15-year-old son Cody, hasn’t yet been back onto their property. They’re staying in a hotel for the moment.
“I figure, everybody’s healthy. I’m overwhelmed by the people who have offered me their homes. It’s pretty incredible how people go above and beyond. I’ve been floored by it,” Simmons said.
Neighbors helping neighbors, and firefighters helping everyone they could — those were the kinds of stories many residents of the burn area chatted about at Monday’s community meeting.
Pete and Tami Lopushinsky were in San Diego at a family gathering when the flames burned to within a few feet of the house they occupy in the Colockum Wildlife Area, where Pete is manager.
“We didn’t even have time to have cake and punch, because we got phone calls,” said Tami, a teacher at Columbia Elementary School in Wenatchee.
Thanks to the help of firefighters, neighbors and the wildlife area’s two staffers, the house, office and shop buildings survived the burn. But they did lose a hay barn at the state-owned site and part of a corral. The Lopushinskys plan to move back in soon, but fences are down and mounds of fence posts and poly pipe were lost in the fire.
Their own home is about 12 miles away and not out of danger.
Their neighbors Phil and Maria Agnew helped round up and evacuate the family’s animals, including their old horse.
The horse’s name is Lucky.