A fire caused Ian Pickett to leave rural Stevens County. Coronavirus brought him back

Back then, the disaster was a local one. In August 2018, a fire ripped through the community of Kettle Falls, setting ablaze nearly 300 acres and sending hundreds of displaced residents to a local Red Cross shelter.

Stevens County resident Ian Pickett had his home destroyed. For the last year and a half, as his home has been rebuilt, he's been down in California living with family.

But this time, the disaster's global. In California, in the midst of the coronavirus, Pickett says he was watching people begin to panic, and the government begin to lock everything down.

"We figured our best chance would be to ride out the storm on our own property in Washington where we could at the very least provide for ourselves off the land," Pickett says. "If we have to be here forever, that's what will happen."

He's calling during a trip to Spokane, when his cellphone gets more reliable service than up in Stevens County.

"I mean, they want us to practice social distancing, and I can't think of a better way than to be on my own property," Pickett says.

While the house is still under construction, he has his trailer up there. He's turned a shed into a living space.

"We have our own spring and we have the ability to hunt if we need to, fish if we need to," Pickett says. "If things became really bad, obviously, this is the best place to be."

After all, he never liked being around a lot of people.

"I've been practicing social distancing my whole life," Pickett says.

Still, even in rural Stevens County, you still have to deal with the occasional obnoxious neighbor, like the "very ornery bear" who sometimes shows up to scratch trees or tear up his trash.

But being on his property on Wednesday, he felt more relaxed than he's been in maybe a year.

"We're overlooking the lake," Pickett says. "It's been beat up quite a bit by the fire, but it's fairly tranquil."

The trees remain charred. The fire has left wounds that will take decades to heal. But with time, spring comes and you begin to rebuild. And, in those moments, there's a whisper of hope in the breeze.

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...