Although many of Lake Chelan’s regular visitors stayed away, some who came noted that they had the place to themselves. Meanwhile, fire burned businesses, threatened dozens of homes and scorched more than 100,000 acres.
CHELAN — If you were Ken Mooney and his family, Sunday was a great time to be here for vacation. Sure, a little smoky.
“I feel like royalty. Every chair is to ourselves,” he said.
Mooney was enjoying the beach at the renowned Campbell’s Resort, now in its 114th year. On a normal summer weekend, the beach would be packed with tourists. Now, maybe half a dozen.
Some 20 percent of the resort’s 172 rooms were occupied on Sunday, by people such as the Mooneys who decided, what the heck, they’d make the drive from Seattle.
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And many tourists couldn’t even tell that on the east side of town, out of sight past the Les Schwab, a fruit packing and storage facility was destroyed by fire Friday.
Estimated loss: $50 million to $80 million.
On Sunday, the valley’s two main income engines were reeling from the fire.
On a typical summer weekend, the area would get 10,000 to 15,000 visitors.
This past weekend, “The majority of resorts are empty,” said Mike Steele, executive director of the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce.
Tourism employs more than 5,000 people in the county, says the chamber, and brings in $417 million a year.
Power was being restored, and places began to reopen. Campbell’s got its power back at 3:30 Sunday morning. The Internet and landline phone service were still out.
The chamber had to have its people walk to the different places to gauge what had happened.
Tom Campbell, part of the family that owns its namesake resort, wondered how all this would play out with the all-important Seattle customers.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime incident,” he said.
For those who had shown up on Sunday, the resort was reducing rates from the $300 or so it usually charges a room, to $100. (Just for Sunday, Campbell said.)
Mooney said he’d have paid the usual rate. He, his wife and three children, have been Campbell’s regulars for five years.
So what if there was no Internet? That’s great, said Mooney, who gets plenty of Internet time as a product designer.
And he kept talking about the empty beach. “All to ourselves!”
The gray-white haze in the air, he said, reminded him of what his home is like when he cooks Thanksgiving dinner.
Although some orchards had suffered fire damage, said Reggie Collins, CEO of Chelan Fruit, a cooperative of 300 growers, the biggest hit was to what is called Plant 1 of its facilities.
The losses included stacks of those empty red bins, ready to be filled with apples, that you see when driving by orchards, Around 150,000 of the bins went up in flames, at $70 apiece.
Something like 450,000 packed boxes of apples — around 1.8 million pounds — of last season’s and this season’s harvest ended up cooked. They will be taken to fields and mixed in as fertilizer.
And the plant itself could hold fruit in “controlled storage,” meaning at 31 to 33 degrees Fahrenheit, and 1 to 1½ percent oxygen level, allowing apples to be kept for up to a year.
The facility has 800 employees. Collins said they’d try and move them to other facilities the cooperative has.
He also said he’s reaching out to other packing places — competitors, in some instances — for help in dealing with this season’s crop.
“We’re trying to stay as positive as we can,” he said. “That’s all we can do.”