On August 19, 2015, three young firefighters lost their lives in the Twisp River Fire when their truck, Engine 642, crashed and was overtaken by flames. A fourth firefighter was burned over 70% of his body. A Reflection Site at the Methow Valley Ranger District in Winthrop stands tribute to the contributions of these Forest Service firefighters and provides a place for the public to reflect and remember their sacrifices.
Visitors to the site will see a rock with a plaque memorializing the three firefighters who died in the Twisp River Fire: Richard Wheeler, Andrew Zajac, and Tom Zbyszewski.
On a bench overlooking the valley, a copper eagle weathervane perches. The eagle, made by artist Jessica da Costa of Copper Maiden Art, carries encapsulated within its heart a small tear-shaped piece of Engine 642, surrounded by a protective layer of clear resin–“a time capsule inside the heart of the bird,” says da Costa.
The weathervane is particularly meaningful to da Costa, as she has known the Zbyszewski family for most of her life. About Tommy, da Costa says “He was a blessing to all and those of us fortunate enough to watch him grow in this valley. I did not know the other brave fighters who took on the fire that day but they were all with Tommy and that’s all I need to know. They are all heroes in my mind and always will be.”
da Costa, along with a committee of citizens and Forest Service employees who pushed the Reflection Site project forward, selected the eagle for the weathervane because of what it symbolizes. “I think the Eagle represents so many things,” says da Costa. “Most people immediately identify with it as being the symbol of our country, and these brave men were doing their best to defend our country, our land and people. We can identify personally to the power and freedom in this symbol and as I see it, the eagle in copper (we are winged with light) honors our humanness, carries spirit.”
Rebuilding after destruction is part of healing, says da Costa, and taking pieces from the ugly wreckage of the Twisp River Fire and creating something beautiful from them helps with that process. da Costa says she is honored to have been a part of this project. “It is my hope for this reflection site and all the love that has been put into creating it will provide a place to start or continue to heal.”
Thank you to the donors who contributed to this project. David Ferro of Ferro Weathervanes is among many anonymous donors who made this project a reality.