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caption: A plane flies over Chelan within hours of a wildfire starting on Aug. 14, 2015. Sunbathers on holiday watched as the fire effort took hold. 
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A plane flies over Chelan within hours of a wildfire starting on Aug. 14, 2015. Sunbathers on holiday watched as the fire effort took hold.
Credit: Flickr Photo/Ben Brooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) http://bit.ly/1KSv09n

PHOTOS: Sunbathers Gawked As Wildfires Burned Chelan

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.