July 11 12:10. Goat Peak with Cedar and Varden fires.

2021 Fire Season

Days of Service: 16

Fires Reported: 5

I truly had no idea how much my life would change in 2021 when I accepted an offer to staff the Goat Peak fire lookout above Mazama in North Central Washington’s beautiful Methow Valley. The lookout is approximately 40 miles north of my home near Twisp. I opened on July 1st, hiked down for a resupply on July 8th, and missed a huge lightning storm that started several fires. After the storm I hiked back up to Goat Peak and over the next 48 hours, would report five new lightning strike fires: Driveway Butte, McGee Creek, Early Winters, Delancey Ridge, and Varden Creek. On July 10th the Cedar Creek fire woke up, eventually merging with the Varden fire and burning over 55,000 acres. On July 17th, the eventual 70,000+ acre Cub Creek 2 fire started and grew rapidly. I was in the middle of a lot more action than I’d ever anticipated.

Goat Peak was evacuated on July 19th and fire wrapped for safety. It was an incredibly busy, very short season at Goat with a mix of awe, excitement, and fear. It was a rookie season I won’t soon forget. I also wrote an article for Filson, who was in town helping to paint and restore the nearby First Butte fire lookout, about my experience.

In an area where mountains can create challenges for communication, I passed along information about changing fire and weather conditions to fire crews and relayed information to backcountry Forest Service teams. I watched helicopters, fire bosses, heavy tankers, smokejumpers and rappelers. I learned a lot about fire behavior, smoke reporting, and radio communications. It was a literal trial by fire.

I also doubled as a public information officer. Before the fires, I helped many learn more about the surrounding mountains, valleys, and wildlife. During the fires, I chatted with many Methow Valley locals, who hiked up to visit, see the fire activity, and talk about what was happening.

Below is a collection of my best photos from my short but action-packed 2021 rookie fire lookout season.