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Woman, like others, refusing to evacuate her home

Nespelem preparing for big fire


Mona Berland is in a red zone, ordered to leave, just like everyone else at Owhi Lake.

She’s not going to, but she’s convincing her neighbors they must in advance of a day firefighters are saying could go badly. On Thursday, wind in the Nespelem area was blowing from the south, holding the then-75,000-acre North Star Fire at bay. But since then, the fire has grown to more than 150,000 acres, and the town of Nespelem is still in danger. And Berland’s home east of town is still in the immediate evacuation zone.

Hurting from fibromyalgia at 64 years of age, she feels she has to stay for the sake of her dogs and her fish.

She lost her only son in 1997, and now Mona takes care of her nine rescued Chihuahua dogs and more than 100 Cichlid fish.

“They’re my children; I have nothing else,” she said in a call to The Star she made to ask how she could donate some of her grandchildren’s clothing for evacuees.

All of her dogs she gathered to her 80-acre place “a hop skip and a jump” from Owhi Lake. She rescued them all from bad situations, sometimes traveling far to get them.

“We are very aware of what’s going on,” she said, “but I just can’t leave them here. … They have nowhere to go.”

And the fish she has lovingly seperated into four tanks, by age group, she said. They obviously can’t leave, and with her fibromyalgia, she’d have a pretty hard time handling them and their water in an evacuation.

She believes she’ll be fine. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

She’s not alone in that attitude.

In Nespelem, acting Mayor Dennis Montes said police were facing problems getting some people to leave their homes, even rentals.

If they have children, police can force the issue, he said. But otherwise, adults can legally make a different choice.

The town has had problems just filling its water reservoirs to prepare for the worst. They finally found a leaky pipe underneath the new bridge on the road to the school. The town’s maintenance man had to shut water off to the school and about six or seven homes, Montes said. Now the tanks are filling with pumps working hard. For a possible fight against flames, firefighters would need all the water pressure full tanks can provide.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” the mayor said. The leak is now fixed, and water back on to the school and homes.

Out on Owhi Flats, Mona has convinced her neighbors, who live in a more wooded area, to get out. She’ll take their cat, and if the worst happens, there’s a little pond called Cayuse Lake nearby on her property, she said.

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