PHOTOS: Sunbathers Gawked As Wildfires Burned Chelan | KUOW News and Information

PHOTOS: Sunbathers Gawked As Wildfires Burned Chelan

Aug 28, 2015

It was a hot Friday morning when a bolt of lightning stretched out three fingers and hit Chelan Butte.

Then a deafening clap of thunder. Then several rings of fire appeared. They would morph into huge wildfires threatening Chelan, a tourist destination in central Washington state.

Ben Brooks, a digital media manager from Fife, Washington, started taking photos. His images are striking and remarkable because of the sunbathers in the corners of his images. 

Brooks, whose family has been returning to Campbell’s Resort in Chelan since 1984, said tourists didn’t appear alarmed.

“I don’t think anyone was really freaked out. It was close, but not at our doorstep,” Brooks said.

In fact, people cheered on the planes. As a C1-30 dropped fire retardant on a line of houses, people near Brooks started clapping.

“I hate to say it’s the new normal, but it’s been something like that for the last few years,” he said.

The relaxed attitude impeded the rescue effort several days later, as the wildfires raged.

“Jet skiers and boaters are hindering the fire fight on Lake Chelan,” the Chelan Mirror newspaper wrote on Facebook. “Planes can’t scoop water when they are in the way. Many attempts to scoop water have been missed. Please help the pilots, stay out of the way.” 

Editor's note: If you're on your phone right now, click through the images in the slideshow at the top of the story. Otherwise, scroll down through the images.

Beachgoers in Chelan watch as the wildfire comes over the butte.
Credit Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) bit.ly/1KSujgv
A plane dumps fire retardant on a ballooning wildfire on Aug. 14.
Credit Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) bit.ly/1KSulVD
A helicopter moves toward Lake Chelan to pull up water to dump on wildfires. The wildfires started on the morning of Aug. 14; vacationers remained and watched the fire effort.
Credit Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/1KSuzMn
Smoke from the Chelan Butte Fire on Friday, Aug. 14.
Credit Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/1KSuDvD
Lightning struck in the early morning of Friday, Aug. 14. A deafening clap of thunder followed. And even though it rained, the wildfires spread.
Credit Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/1KSuUyA
A plane dumps fire retardant on an approaching fire in Chelan, Washington. Vacationers at the Campbell's Resort watched as the firefighting effort took hold.
Credit Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/1KSv5Ko

 

Black smoke billows in Chelan after wildfires erupted on Friday, Aug. 14. Photographer Ben Brooks said he heard an apple warehouse had burned, which was the cause of the black plumes.
Credit Credit Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/1KSuus5

 

The next day, Saturday, Aug. 15, the smoke descended on Campbell's Resort in Chelan, Washington. Many families decided to leave. Photographer Ben Brooks, whose family has been coming here since 1984, decided to stay.
Credit Credit Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/1KSvbBM

      

The sun in Chelan, Washington, the day after wildfires erupted.
Credit Credit Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/1KSvfRZ