Where there’s smoke

There’s an early start to what will likely be a brutal fire season in the West, even on this side of the Cascades.

Two officials drove me around one of the area’s larger fires this week — Douglas firs burning as birthday candles for me — and my photos of the trip took the front page Wednesday. Here’s one:

Department of Natural Resources firefighter Jason Hoerner radios area crews at a lookout above the Colvin Fire east of Woodland on Tuesday. Photo by Brooks Johnson

Elsewhere, in my continuing efforts to be Good At Everything, I’ve taken on the cops and courts beat in addition to covering Longview’s government and people.

That has already kept me busy with another death in the county jail, a murderer looking for a new trial 15 years later and our famous local hotelier digging himself into a hole. Allegedly.

There’s also my favorite data-based story so far, a look at the shared costs of the drug problem in the county.

City of Longview employee Ron Pedersen picks up trash and refuse left behind by drug users at Lake Sacajawea, including some small pieces of insulation stripped of the copper wiring it held. Photo by Brooks Johnson

But it’s not all doom and gloom in Cowlitz County, right?

Take the cardboard boat regatta, for example. Or my widely shared look at a year in the legal pot industry.

Then there’s the occasional W from our Cowlitz Black Bears — seemingly only taken after 11+ innings when I cover the games.

See, we have fun.