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It’s not easy to estimate the fires’ economic impact

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As fires destroyed huge swaths of land in the region the daily focus was obviously and rightly on the physical damage being done.

More than 300 homes were destroyed, livestock was killed and families were evacuated. It was an early and awful fire season and keeping up with what was happening required constant attention.

Even after the fires were contained, rains compounded the devastation, causing mudslides and more destruction.

In tracking all that, there also was another big piece of damage being done that was not so visible: Businesses were being hammered and tourism all but halted.

In this issue of Business World we try to assess the damage that was done to the region’s economy during the fire season. That is not an easy task this early on. It will probably take many more weeks or months to get a good understanding of the cost.

Even places like Leavenworth, where fire never really threatened the town and most days were relatively smoke-free, the tourism-dependent community was hard hit.

News reports on the west side were using the town as a recognizable point in describing the fires. Saying the word “Leavenworth,” then going on to describe dangerous and out-of-control fires no doubt kept many people away.

Also, access was limited at times by highway closures. The community scrambled to let people know things in the Bavarian village destination were fine, but it was a challenge and revenue was lost.

It was the Methow Valley where perception was reality. The Carlton Complex Fire was the largest in state history and key tourism centers like Twisp and Winthrop were shut down, figuratively and literally, during the peak of the tourism season.

Power was out for weeks, in some cases. Even cell phone service was disrupted.

Already, preliminary economic reports are being produced showing the economic damage done by the wildfires and it is huge.

This, however, is damage, not devastation. We are a hearty and beautiful region that will bounce back from this and whatever lied ahead.

Already, plans are being formulated to quicken the pace of recovery and rebuild what was lost, with the eye on an even brighter future.

It is that sort of resilience that typifies our region. And it speaks well of our beautiful communities and the businesses that keep them going.

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