SPECIAL REPORT: Money Running Out to Help Survivors of Carlton C - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

SPECIAL REPORT: Money Running Out to Help Survivors of Carlton Complex Fire

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TWISP, WA. -- Last summer, the Carlton Complex Fire ripped through North Central Washington and set records as the largest wildfire in state history. Hundreds lost everything they owned to the flames. It's now been six months, but a lot of people are still struggling to get back on their feet.  


As the snow falls here in Okanogan County, months after the Carlton Complex Fire ripped through the area, many fire survivors are left wondering what the future might hold. 


This camper might not be pretty, with a leaky roof and a bathroom that doesn't work but for Shane Horton and his dog boss, it helps keep them safe and dry. And Shane says that's all he can ask for. 

Winter has set in.

"Well this is home sweet home for now," Shane says. 

A trailer sitting on his parent's property in Twisp is all Shane Horton has left.

"This is my current living room," Shane said.


Shane and his pit bull mix Boss do the best they can in the dark, cramped space. Yet, Shane is thankful that a friend is letting him stay in the trailer until he can get back on his feet. 


"Well this is pretty nice," Shane said. "I got to count my blessings that it was lent to me. But the bathroom don't work and the hot water doesn't work. As far as just a nice place to sleep and call my own, it's pretty darn comfortable. I'm pretty happy with that for now you know?" Shane said.

Shane thinks he's pretty lucky, especially considering the circumstances. 

This land is where Shane's house used to sit.

"Well I'm currently standing in my living room, facing out the windows that would be facing my beautiful forested area here," Shane told us.

Shane had no warning at all that the flames of the Carlton Complex Fire were heading straight for him, until he stepped outside. 


"It sounded like a huge jet reverberating through my whole body and I couldn't even see the light of the fire yet," Shane said. "By the time I drove up to the upper area here, all I seen was this huge wall of flames, and probably every neighbor that lived above me lined up watching the fire come this way."

Shane barely escaped with the clothes on his back. He came back a few days later to find everything he owned turned to ash. 

At the time, Shane had owned the property for only year and a half. The house was not insurable, ironically because of the fire code, and Shane was in the middle of remodeling the home. 

Being an artist, the fire took more than just his house, it destroyed his art collection. One that he spent years working on. 


"And it's just all gone," Shane said. So it's like a huge chapter of my life is just missing."

Without insurance, and with no money to rebuild, Shane needed help. He's getting it from his case manager Jessica Martin and the non-profit Okanogan Community Action Council. 

Jessica is one of four case managers for the entire county. Pateros is the area that received the most attention after the fire, but Jessica works the Chiliwist area near Malott, a half hour away. She handles more than 100 clients in that region. 


"My area was completely engulfed," Martin said. "It started about nine o'clock at night where my homeowners were looking out their windows and seeing a wall of flames, grabbing what they could and getting in their vehicle. And most of them were not ahead of the fire any longer by the time they got out of their driveways. The fire was on them"


Jessica helps her clients with everything from temporary housing to insurance claims. But one thing she didn't expect is with the tremendous emotional trauma, she also acts as their therapist. 

She recalls one of the more disturbing stories. 

"He had to witness livestock that was on fire trying to get away from the fire and driving right past it because there was nothing he could do," Martin recalled.

Jessica keeps a special artifact near her desk. It's a mix of a colored bottle collection and a pewter base, forever burned into one.

In fact many of the desks have similar objects, including the Executive Director Lael Duncan. 


"There's hands and feet and glass," Duncan told us. "And it's really testimony to the strength of the fire."

Despite being the head of an organization in charge of helping people recover, Duncan herself can't help but get emotional talking about the destruction she has seen. 

"Ok, I'm ready now," Duncan said after an emotional moment. "It's unimaginable, it really is. At the height of the fire it was moving at 10 acres per second. Which I can't even fathom."

Immediately following the fire, money flowed into the region at a tremendous rate. 

A total of one million dollars was donated to different fire recovery groups by November. Community Action Council received $200,000 themselves. A combination of private donations and state funding. But almost all of that money is now gone.

Duncan says they have identified 34 people either under-insured or uninsured who need to rebuild and that could take years. But they have a bigger problem. Their current funds will only support their case manager's salaries through April. 


"I guess the question is will there be enough to go around?" we asked.  


"That's yet to be seen. That's yet to be seen." Duncan responded. 

Shane is one of those uninsured people that just has to wait. Wait to get his life started again

He just hopes it's not too late. 


"I was really trying to build me a nest to attract a good wholesome earthy woman who could be a homesteader and raise some children," Shane told us. "But it's kind of hard to attract somebody at my age without a foundation to work with. Good solid roots in the ground."


Until that time comes, Shane and Boss continue to hope that somehow, they get the help they need. So Shane can eventually get his life back to normal. 

"Maybe I'll find somebody to build it from the ground up. That would be the ultimate goal I guess," Shane said. 


People in Okanogan County can use your help. Community Action Council says they desperately need contractors to come up to the area and volunteer their time to rebuild some of the homes that were lost in the fire. 

If you can't give your time, fire survivors also need a great deal of donations. Just make sure it goes directly to those in need by giving to Community Action Council or the Red Cross. 


Here is a link to donate to Community Action Council: http://www.occac.com/

Click on the "Donate" button to help. 



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