NESPELEM - Colville tribal elder Darlene Wilder, who’s house on Owhi Flats was in the path of the destructive Chuweah Creek Fire, shared her story as well.
“That evening we were just finishing up dinner and we heard and felt the thunder almost simultaneously so we knew that it was very close,” she said.
The fire crept up to within 50 to 60 yards of their house, burning up her niece’s house and whatever brush was near-by including remaining slash piles left behind above their property line from a recent logging operation.
With the fire right there on the backside of their property, former Marine and veteran Derek Vasquez just happened to be at the right place at the right time as he jumped into action.
“He got the water hose and climbed up on the roof,” said Wilder. “He said, ‘Give me that sprinkler’ and sprinkled our house down until the power went out.
The power kept going out and trees were falling every which way and some trees were about to fall.“
Vasquez, who had just finished up his degree at Salish Kootenai College, moved back home to the Colville Indian Reservation just weeks ago.
“He’s like an adopted son,” said Wilder. “I especially want to thank Jesse Palmer for not just sitting there and watching the flames as they rush towards us, but he got his watertanker and really doused it down and I want to say thank you to the teams of effort to do the savings of our places.”
Wilder’s message in all this was simple.
“If there is one lesson that we should have learned out of all of this is that, I think we all better straighten out how we’re living, learn to pray and follow what the Creator has put us here to do and that’s take care of our Mother Earth for future generations,” she said.
“Because if that isn’t a good warning of what the inferno is like, what Hell’s going to be like than I guess that’s where you want to be. I don’t.”
After hearing her story, Governor Inslee had a few words for Wilder.
“Thank you for that eloquence and I’m so glad you’re here,” said Inslee who asked Wilder to join him for a moment. “If you could just stand up here with me.”
“So everyday as governor, when I need someone who’s really inspirational I can designate them as Washingtonian of the day,” said Inslee. “But today I have an army National Guard coin. So for today I’m designating Mrs. Wilder as ‘Washingtonian of the Day’ for your eloquence and for your love of the state of Washington. I really appreciate you sharing your heart with us, and I’m going to take your message to legislators and everyone else in the hopes that we can fight this beast that’s destroying this home we love and that’s called climate change.”