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Pateros Residents Try To Make Sense Of Destruction Left By Wildfire

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network

The wildfires burning in central Washington prompted another round of evacuations Friday night.

Sheriff's deputies urged residents around some edges of the sprawling Carlton Complex fire in Okanogan County to leave. Meanwhile, other evacuees in the lower Methow Valley and Pateros have been allowed to return home to see what's left.

It was hard for Dan Atkisson to drive away as a wall of fire came down the hill behind his house in the small Columbia River town of Pateros. But it was even harder to make the long drive back on Friday.

"It was a real hard drive -- you didn't know. You had no clue whether your house would be here or not," recalled Atkisson. "And when I got here, I see my friends houses were pretty much down to rubble. There was nothing left over there. I'm just glad it wasn't us. The house was still here."

The fire stopped about a foot away from his wood house. Pateros residents are now trying to make sense of why some homes are black scars on the ground and others are still standing -- sometimes right next to each other.

Kelsey Verbeck says none of her neighbors' homes burned. But she and her husband had to go to a nearby shelter after they lost everything.

"We thought it would be okay. He grabbed a pair of work pants and a work shirt for today. We thought we'd be back there," Verbeck said. "So that's kind of how we were thinking. I really didn't think it would burn. I mean, we live right in town."

And the threat remains. As people returned, another home in the middle of town caught fire from a flare up likely caused by a falling ember.