AFTER THE FIRE: KHQ returns to Okanogan County - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

AFTER THE FIRE: KHQ returns to Okanogan County

Posted: Updated:
The most iconic area of the Carlton Complex Fire has been cleared. Little rubble remains after 6 weeks The most iconic area of the Carlton Complex Fire has been cleared. Little rubble remains after 6 weeks
PATEROS, Wash. -

It's been more than a month since the Carlton Complex fire raged out of control and burned through the towns of Pateros and Brewster and the residents in the area are picking up the pieces, and preparing for the long haul.

The fire started on July 14th from a lightning strike. Four separate fires merged into one, and burned through Okanogan County at a rapid rate. On July 17th, the fire raced towards the towns of Pateros and Brewster, eventually burning through homes in Pateros. It also destroyed dozens of homes in places like Alta Lake, the Methow Valley, and along the Chiliwist.

More than a month later, firefighters have a perimeter set up around 100% of the fire, however during its peak, the fire destroyed upwards of 300 homes and in the end burned more than 256,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in Washington's history.

One of the major issues the victims and Okanogan County as a whole are dealing with today is a lack of short- and long-term affordable housing for the displaced. Okanogan County Emergency Management says the county only had about a 1 percent vacancy rate before the first destroyed hundreds of homes. Now residents have been forced out of their homes. Some of sleeping in tents on their lawn, others in a surviving outbuilding. Many have relocated to other areas or are staying with friends or family. Either way, a major concern is that property values will drop if residents simply relocate rather than rebuild. Organizations from around the county are gathering on a daily basis to organize thorough recovery plans.

Another major issue came two weeks ago, when FEMA denied individual aid to victims who lost their homes in the fire.

“My fear is that people could potentially die from the cold weather,” said Lael Duncan, with Okanogan Community Action Counsel.

Duncan says if residents don't begin building soon, they won't be able to complete a new home before the weather turns.

Meanwhile residents continue to pour into the Pateros distribution center, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

“We're just getting through it one day at a time,” Dennis Hoots told me. He's worked the Pateros distribution center almost everyday since the fire, and says the need in this county is still great.

“This last week we had two new people, first time asking for help,” Hoots said.

For Sheriff Frank Rodgers, life has also drastically changed. Like so many in the area, he has many friends and family that lost homes to the Carlton Complex fire. And he and his staff have worked tirelessly to keep these residents safe.

“My whole career, never seen anything like this,” Sheriff Rodgers told KHQ. “There was nothing you could do to stop this. No one is getting sleep like they used to. This isn't going to end anytime soon, that's the problem.”

Of course, last week's mudslide damaged or destroyed another dozen Okanogan County homes. Sheriff Rodgers cautioned that the damage might not be done.

“This is going to be bad this spring,” Sheriff Rodgers said. “All the snow, the runoff and the melt. That's going to be a real issue.”

FEMA will provide public funding to Okanogan County. They will begin assessing the damages on September 4th. Also, the state plans to appeal FEMA's decision to deny individual aid on behalf of the state.

Previous Coverage:


It's been more than a month since the Carlton Complex fire raged out of control and burned through the towns of Pateros and Brewster and the residents in the area are picking up the pieces, and preparing for the long haul. 

The fire started on July 14th from a lightning strike. Four separate fires merged into one, and burned through Okanogan County at a rapid rate. On July 17th, the fire raced towards the towns of Pateros and Brewster, eventually burning through homes in Pateros. 

More than a month later, firefighters have a perimeter set up around 100% of the fire, however during its peak, the fire destroyed 300 homes and in the end burned more than 256,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in Washington's history. 

KHQ was live on the fire lines as it began to grow out of control in July. Our crews spent days in Okanogan County, tracking the fire and the progress to contain it all the way from Winthrop to Pateros, and Brewster to Omak. The recovery will be slow, but steady. The people of Okanogan County are resilient and have welcomed us with open arms as we talked with them just hours after they lost their homes, many while their homes were still smoldering. 

The goal was not to exploit or capitalize on a tragedy, but to allow the rest of the state, region and ultimately country a chance to see the devastation the fire left behind. We heard countless stories of tragedy, heroism, and perseverance. Our goal is to now present the recovery aspect as the people of Okanogan County continue to fight on. 

This week KHQ returned to Okanogan County, and much like the week we were there during the peak of the fire, we were welcomed into the communities with open arms as people continued to pick up, repair, and rebuild their lives. Sheriff Frank Rogers took us on a ride along of the area to show the amount of devastation left behind. Volunteers at shelters and distribution centers talked about the appreciation the communities have for everyone that has donated, including the residents of the Inland Northwest who donated during our KHQ Cares, Inland Northwest Shares drive we held for the victims. 

As the weeks turn into months, our goal is to stand with the people of Okanogan County, tell their stories of tragedy and more importantly, triumph. There is a long road of recovery still to walk, but we know the people of Okanogan County are up for the challenge, and hope to continue to stand by their side as they make the journey. 

HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • Top Stories from KHQHomeMore>>

  • Medical tents busy at Hoopfest 2017

    Medical tents busy at Hoopfest 2017

    Saturday, June 24 2017 10:13 PM EDT2017-06-25 02:13:51 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - It's starting to get hot and the doctors and volunteers at Hoopfest weekend were keeping busy treating everything from heat exhaustion to scrapes and sprains Over the course of the first day of the tournament, workers say they treated about 400 people. They've been stressing the importance of staying well hydrated, whether you're balling out in the tournament, or strictly spectating.

    More >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - It's starting to get hot and the doctors and volunteers at Hoopfest weekend were keeping busy treating everything from heat exhaustion to scrapes and sprains Over the course of the first day of the tournament, workers say they treated about 400 people. They've been stressing the importance of staying well hydrated, whether you're balling out in the tournament, or strictly spectating.

    More >>
  • Drunk driver rams light pole twice in Pasco

    Drunk driver rams light pole twice in Pasco

    Saturday, June 24 2017 9:45 PM EDT2017-06-25 01:45:43 GMT

    Pasco Police shared surveillance video from a local mini mart that shows a drunk driver hitting a parked car and a light pole in the parking lot. Police say the driver was at the store purchasing more beer before she hit the parked vehicle on her way out of the lot. She tried to leave the scene of the accident  and smashed into a light pole.

    More >>

    Pasco Police shared surveillance video from a local mini mart that shows a drunk driver hitting a parked car and a light pole in the parking lot. Police say the driver was at the store purchasing more beer before she hit the parked vehicle on her way out of the lot. She tried to leave the scene of the accident  and smashed into a light pole.

    More >>
  • Hoopfest team plays in honor of shot EWU teammate

    Hoopfest team plays in honor of shot EWU teammate

    Saturday, June 24 2017 8:57 PM EDT2017-06-25 00:57:48 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Hoopfest is underway and some teams have taken to the court for some inspirational reasons. One team made up of former Eastern Washington University athletes formed a team to honor their former teammate, Alden Gibbs. Gibbs is now paralyzed from the waist down after a shooting back in January. He was shot in the back 11 times.

    More >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Hoopfest is underway and some teams have taken to the court for some inspirational reasons. One team made up of former Eastern Washington University athletes formed a team to honor their former teammate, Alden Gibbs. Gibbs is now paralyzed from the waist down after a shooting back in January. He was shot in the back 11 times.

    More >>