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Heroes of Horse Canyon; Locals stepping up to save homes, help victims in massive Eastern Washington wildfire

The trees were twisted and black and the ground was a study of ash and parched scrub and grass. Smoke hung like fog. But as the sun rose Thursday, Aug. 16, on day four of the massive Taylor Bridge wildlife, the heroes of Horse Canyon and their homes were safe.

Snoqualmie Valley Record Publisher William Shaw was an eyewitness to the aftermath of nature's devastating power. He experienced the Taylor Bridge fire as an anxious parent, helping on his son Liam's ranch after the fires wave of devastation passed.

Liam—a former Fall City and Issaquah resident— and his fiance, Natalie McGowan, and cousin Patrick Haggerty of North Bend, defended Liam’s cattle ranch, located on Bettas Road in Horse Canyon, east of Cle Elum. Ranches there were in the direct path of the fast-moving wildfire, which consumed more than 23,000 acres of rural land in the vicinity of Cle Elum and Ellensburg and more than 80 homes since it kindled Aug. 13.

Shaw relates that he was amazed at the devastation. The fire swept up from the south. Neighbors had been ordered to evacuate, but several, including Liam and his friends, family and neighbors, stayed behind, guarding their homes. Neighbors stayed because they loved their farms and ranches, and didn’t want to see them destroyed.

The younger Shaw had closely grazed his land in preparing for his and Natalie’s upcoming wedding, and as part of his job demonstrating livestock fencing. That close crop, combined with frantic efforts with shovel, dozer, firewall and water truck, kept his home safe as the blaze approached. By Thursday morning, the fire had passed, leaving Liam’s ranch an oasis of green in a desert of ash.

Local resources

The fire underscored connections between the Snoqualmie Valley, the greater Eastside, and neighbors across the Cascades.

Many Valley residents and business gave of their time and resources to help Kittitas County residents made homeless by the blaze, and the firefighters battling it. Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce, Encompass, Hooper’s Deli, Frankie’s Pizza, Pet Place Market, Mount Si Montessori and the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Foundation were among the Valley organizations trumpeting the need to react to the fire.

The North Bend McDonald’s restaurant donated a pile of cheeseburgers and Big Macs; Shaw hauled a load of the burgers to the volunteers.

“That was the first food those guys had,” he said.

Money donations sought

Now, the Kittitas County Chamber asks for monetary donations. Goods that were donated to help fire victims have filled several warehouses. Cash helps a number of responding groups meet the specific needs of fire victims, while helping businesses recover, according to the chamber.

To learn how to help, visit www.kittitascountychamber.com.

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