Sheriff: Some of Pateros still standing -- barely -- after devastating wildfire

Residents evacuating Washington's Methow Valley as wildfires spread Thursday night. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

PATEROS, Wash. -- As fires blazed through the Methow Valley and the small towns of Pateros and Brewster late last night, rumors circled that the towns had been caught up, totally decimated by flames.

Okanogon County Sheriff Frank T. Rogers said Friday morning the damage to Pateros is extensive, but at least some of the town next to the Columbia River and Highway 97 is still standing .

"The church and post office are OK," he said, noting that he was calling from downtown. He said somehow, much of the downtown area was saved from the racing fires Thursday night.

Still, at least 30 homes burned down in Pateros, he said, with 40 more burned in the nearby Alta Lake area -- a huge number for such a small town.

Pateros, Washington after wildfire rages through town.

Luckily, no injuries were reported.

The fire -- part of the Carlton Complex Fire -- moved away from Pateros early Friday morning and jumped north of Highway 97, heading down Star Road toward Chelan. But it's slowing down and far away from the city.

Pateros and the nearby town of Brewster were evacuated Thursday night.The three patients in the hospital in Brewster were moved to the Mid-Valley Hospital in Omak while the Brewster hospital staff evacuated the area late Thursday.

TJ Bultman has a vacation home in Pateros. He said the town was evacuated shortly after he spotted the flames run over a hill toward the small town around 8 p.m. Thursday. Then, as he drove away with the town in his rearview mirror, he watched as the fire hit his small farming community.


Earth scorched by the Carlton Complex Fire. (Credit: Wenatchee Fire and Rescue)

"We literally watched the fire move from one end of the town through the other," Bultman said. "It moved through the town burning homes. It was the craziest thing I've ever seen."

Bultman said he saw a large number of buildings burning as the fire raced toward Brewster. He doesn't know for sure if his home made it, and speculated that some of downtown Pateros was lost, despite what the sheriff said.

The Carlton Complex Fire has burned more than 167,000 acres. The fires started Monday by lightning from a weather system that moved through Washington’s Methow Valley, the Incident Command said. The Carlton Complex consists of four fires: Stokes Fire, Gold Hikes Fire, French Creek Fire and the Cougar Flat. The Stokes and Gold Hikes fires are now one larger fire. The fires are burning in timber and grass.

Officials said the fire is about 30 miles long, and traveled at least 15 miles Thursday.Six hundred firefighters, 79 fire trucks and 7 choppers continued to fight the blaze. The Associated Press reported that nearly 100 structures total have been burned by the fire.

The fire closed multiple roads in the area. Highway 20 was closed east of Twisp in both directions from milepost 206 at Finley Canyon to to milepost 215 at the Loup Loup Pass Summit, U.S. 97 further east was closed in both directions from the town of Pateros at milestpost 253 to Brewster at milepost 260, and Highway 153 was closed in the area.

Photos from different media outlets and residents continued to show the destruction Friday morning.

Brewster has a population of about 2,380, and Pateros has 673.

Homes scorched by the Carlton Complex Fire early Friday morning. (Credit: Wenatchee Fire and Rescue)