ENTIAT — Calm winds Thursday gave firefighters and homeowners a bit of a break following the Mills Canyon Fire’s wind-driven run Wednesday night.
Life seemed as normal as it could be in the shadow of an 18,000-acre wildfire with some 650 firefighters in town.
“We live about a quarter-mile from where the fire started,” Mike Safford said Thursday, as he and his family stopped briefly at a road block before heading out for a day on the water at Lake Chelan.
The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office limited access to Entiat River Road to residents only. Highway 97A between Entiat and Wenatchee was closed due to smoke, fire and falling rocks. Highway 97A reopened to all traffic Thursday evening.
“You could see the hills all around us were burning,” Safford said, “but we’re surrounded by orchards, so you feel pretty secure.”
Annette Osborn, a 34-year resident of the Entiat River Valley and her husband Scott Osborn, a 10-year resident, said their home wasn’t threatened, but they worried about friends and neighbors. All were OK, as it turned out.
“I think about what’s dry out there that I could get wet,” Annette said of her thoughts at the news that fire was nearby. “It’s nice to see so many people out there working on it. It makes you feel good.”
It was in this atmosphere of relative calm Thursday that Dan Wilson and his daughters arrived to set up shop — a trailer outfitted to make commemorative T-shirts for Mills Canyon firefighters and anyone else who wanted a memento.
“Of course I do this to make money, but people don’t realize how the firefighters like the shirts,” said Wilson, an Omak cattle rancher who spends his summers selling customized shirts and souvenirs of the region’s biggest fires. “They collect them as a hobby.”
Wilson and daughters Becky Barnes and Mandi Wilson set up their “fire shirts” stand on the fringes of the high school football field, which was partially covered with distant rows of firefighter tents.
The caps, T-shirts and hoodies display a “Mills Canyon Wildfire” logo that Wilson designed himself on his home computer. Daughter Becky silk screens the shirts inside the trailer and younger daughter Mandi heads up customer service.
Wilson says he sold shirts at five wildfires last fire season. He’s been doing the work for about 10 years.
No sooner had he finished explaining, when Alan Lawson, a state fire investigator in town from White Salmon, walked up to check out the goods. He chose a dark gray T-shirt and then headed back to work.