When fire came to Chelan, Wash., it arrived with all the chaos and drama of a fictional apocalypse. Crowds of tourists gathered to watch a jagged orange line of flame crawl up Chelan Butte, a giant brown hillock that pinches this small city against a namesake lake that punches 50 miles into the steep, glaciated Cascades. Then the crowd ran screaming when 40-mph winds reversed and drove the fire line toward the homes and restaurants that edge the lake.
With a big enough CGI budget and maybe Ed Harris, any Hollywood hack director could probably do the broad strokes: five separate lightning strikes setting the ponderosa forests alight, only to join later in one blaze; flinty sheriffs on bullhorns shouting out evacuation orders; a wall of smoke and fire dropping off a 6,000-foot ridge to dead-end in the fat snake of the Columbia River.
But it would take a demented genius with a gift for the unsettling comedy that underpins horror — Guillermo Del Toro or Tim Burton, maybe — to dream up the weird details that accompany what looks like The End of the World in Vacationland.
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