Recent Wildfires are Most Catastrophic in State’s History, Inslee Says

Many Bonney Lake residents were unsure of the exact location of the fires.

photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Claire Sagiao.

Many Bonney Lake residents were unsure of the exact location of the fires.

Lauren Cook and Knoopy Yi

Historic wildfires have ravaged the West Coast since the beginning of September 2020, with over 800,000 acres affected in Washington State alone, according to a recent report from the Seattle Times. Dozens of Washington residents have been evacuated from their homes, and hazardous air quality levels forced people to stay inside in many parts of the state until recently.

Inkwell reached out to Upper School for Girls sophomore Claire Sagiao, who lives in Bonney Lake, a region particularly affected by the fires. Sagiao recalled driving home from a quick weekend trip to Leavenworth, Wash., when she first heard about the fires near her home.

Sagiao was not too worried to begin with. “At first I was like, ‘oh, it’s fine’,” she said. But later, as more information emerged about the severity of the wildfires, Sagiao realized that she might actually have to leave. 

“We got a call that the evacuation line was right next to us… we packed our most important stuff and put it in the car… basically, I had to live off getting stuff out of the car for a few days, in case we had to leave.” Sagiao’s family planned on temporarily relocating to her grandmother’s house in Lake Tapps if authorities confirmed the need to evacuate.

Although Sagiao was not evacuated ultimately, she mentioned feeling very stressed during this time because, “a lot of people were saying they didn’t even know where the fire was… if you were [in one area], it looked like it was right next to you, but [in another spot]… it looked like it was super far away.” She is grateful for the likelihood that her family received more information on the fires because her father is a police officer.

A few of Sagiao’s friends nearby were evacuated in the early morning. “[The evacuation team] came and they knocked on their door and [said], ‘okay, you guys have ten minutes to leave.’ And they just had to grab their most valuable stuff and leave… a few of my other friends, [for one] it was actually her birthday, she got evacuated the day of.” 

Even after the fires faded, power outages and poor air quality kept Sagiao from enjoying her usual activities, such as riding her horse or even connecting to online classes.

Inkwell will be releasing a podcast in October covering the West Coast wildfires and the now widespread and disastrous effects of climate change in more detail.