Pateros Needs Your Help!

Central WA Fires 7-14 2

Update, 12/1/14: A new website to support fire victims is up and running, Carlton Complex Recovery!


In July of this year the largest wildfire in state history swept through Okanogan County in north central Washington. Four or five different fires, collectively known as the Carlton Complex Fire, ravaged multiple towns and destroyed 325 to 350 houses, two-thirds of which were primary residences.

You might remember my Pateros in Flames post that listed ways to help survivors of this disaster. I was sickened to learn that now, close to Thanksgiving when Okanogan County is experiencing freezing temperatures, many people are still without the housing, clothing, food, goods, and assistance they need. This crisis is far from over.

Some people assume that our government, at some level, will take care of the survivors. Wrong. FEMA has denied individual aid to fire survivors repeatedly. Those who’ve visited the area to help have called this the most underfunded disaster they’ve ever seen. So in a nutshell, in the words of community organizer Deb Stennes, this region’s recovery is dependent upon the generosity of others. 

Sixty percent of the tenants or owners affected by these fires are underinsured or uninsured. Many people lost rental homes that were sources of income for them and can’t afford to rebuild. Some residents of Pateros and other towns have relocated, some are living with family, and some are commuting ridiculously long distances from temporary residences. There are numerous people still in the area who are enduring substandard accommodations and conditions to survive.

There are those in the Pateros area (and elsewhere) who don’t have electricity or plumbing. They are using generators, and therefore expensive fuel, to survive. Some travel trailers were donated for people to live in, but because of the modifications the people living in them have had to make to stay warm, they are not mobile.

In some of these temporary homes they have to use 5-gallon buckets for toilets. There are local residents without running water and even one woman who’s living in a yurt. Even though she’s hung comforters around to insulate it and has a propane heater, it generally doesn’t get above 50 degrees inside. She cuddles with her little dog to try and heat up.

Pateros DS 1

There have been a number of other issues caused by the fires as well. There was a significant environmental impact– debris was choking the local waterways and beginning to contaminate the area. In September, KING 5 reported on the cleanup still going on. Pets and livestock were lost, injured, killed, or displaced, and the abundant local wildlife population was affected. Businesses were destroyed or suffer and popular tourism areas are either out of business or have to stage a comeback. State parks were damaged also.

Many residents and some churches and organizations from Chelan and Okanogan Counties have been working tirelessly since July to meet the needs of survivors and help them move on. Because this effort is private– not taxpayer-funded or headed by a big-name organization like the Red Cross– they could use reinforcements. You know those post-apocalyptic movies and TV shows in which people are struggling to live after nuclear war? That’s a lot like what these folks are dealing with.

When donating to a disaster fund, or any charity, we need to be careful about who we’re giving to in order to ensure they’re legitimate and the money will be spent on the cause itself. These first two groups have been personally recommended to me as legitimate 501c3s to donate to:

Grace City Church, P.O. Box 4657, Wenatchee, WA  98801

PBLTRO (Pateros Brewster Long Term Organization), P.O. Box 658, Pateros, WA  98846

The Community Foundation of North Central Washington has a fire relief fund, but your donations can’t be allocated to specific areas. It is a well-known organization based in Wenatchee.

Some private citizens have adopted particular families to help– imagine how many families could be helped if a large company decided to adopt. New or like new winter clothing is needed. New or like new household items are needed. Housing is still needed. Skilled people who can help rebuild is still needed. Please note that some well-meaning people have donated clothing or items that are not in good shape and therefore some donations had to be put into the garbage.

There is a very powerful blog post with professional photos at Lifesong Photography’s website, A Waterfall of Flames: The Carlton Complex Fire 2014. It provides windows into the tragic and charred world of our neighbors to the east, putting faces on those we might have otherwise heard about briefly on the news. Please check it out. The Seattle Met magazine will soon be featuring a piece on the fires as well.

If you or your organization want more information about specifically what needs to be done for fire survivors, please contact Deb Stennes at stennesdeb(at) Deb, her husband Keith, and their sons are the fourth generation of their family running Stennes Orchards and the Cascade Crest Organics brand. They haven’t stopped reaching out to people in Pateros and elsewhere since this began and are well-connected in the community.

Let’s see what we can do to obtain suitable winter lodging, clothing, and other needed goods for the people and pets displaced by this catastrophe. This would make a great holiday project for schools and corporations. If everyone gave just a little, we would achieve more than enough.

Pateros DS 2


You could see the puzzled old rich man—whom everybody had envied for his wealth—sitting up in bed at midnight with his gray hair tousled and his silken nightcap askew, blinking into the disappointed eyes of the Angel who was shaking his head and saying, “Corn? No; you can’t bring the corn along—or the barns. You may bring only whatever you have given away.”
-Lloyd C. Douglas, The Big Fisherman


©2014 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

2 thoughts on “Pateros Needs Your Help!

  1. A friend connected to this disaster told me what someone from Seattle asked an area resident: “So things are getting back to normal over there, aren’t they?”

    No. No they’re not.


Seriously, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s