Our Northwest

Wildfire spares homes, habitat for Buttons the elk

Tuesday, July 12, 2016by  Jon Osterberg
Firewise precautions and the infamous 2012 Taylor Bridge Wildfire helped to curtail a July 2 blaze east of Cle Elum, said the man whose home lay directly in harm's way.
     Thanks primarily to the swift and skillful response from Kittitas County and DNR firefighters, that home stands unblemished today.
     Jon and Sandy Rorem's hillside cabin overlooks the Cle Elum Valley from above old U.S. Highway 10. In 2012, their place suffered smoke damage and a charred deck as the wind-whipped Taylor Bridge fire swept across their property. The Rorems' next-door neighbors fared worse – their home burned to the ground.
     But because that 2012 fire burned so much foliage, and because of the Rorem's recent Firewise efforts, firefighters enjoyed much better odds last week as they successfully protected the Rorem's home.
     "Following the 2012 fire we irrigated a great deal on our property and seeded a lot," Jon Rorem said. "We added a concrete patio under the deck and laid rockery around the periphery of the cabin. Also, the day before last week's fire, our son Brad had just weedwhacked a lot of tall grass and weeds."
     Rorem's cabin also has a metal roof and fire-resistant Hardy siding. He said that because the Taylor Bridge Wildfire burned foliage and many of the trees on his property four years ago, less fuel remained.
     Despite the flames, smoke, and flurry of activity – Rorem said four fire crews and their fleet of trucks used his yard as a staging area as three water-laden helicopters soared overhead – the community's resident celebrity roamed the scene carefree.
     Perhaps you saw her in a recent Seattle Times photo? Buttons is a tame, orphaned elk that lives near Rorem's cabin and nuzzles anyone in sight. Buttons ambled up to the busy firefighters July 2, perhaps thinking they were there solely to greet her and scratch her neck.
     "We'd heard that when Buttons was about nine months old, her mother was killed, so a local rancher 'adopted' her," Rorem said. "She hung out in his corral with his other livestock. She's always been very tame.
     "Over July 4 weekend last year, we installed a new flagpole," he said. "Buttons was intrigued with it, and in our photo it looks as if she's saluting it. The Kittitas Tribune ran that photo last year."
     Photos courtesy of Jon Rorem

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