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Amid the ashes: Victims survey Pateros devastation

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Ryan Greene's family outside their home — spared while other homes nearby were destroyed by a wildfire that crested the ridge and swept into the town of Pateros.

GALLERY

MORE INFO

Pateros at a glance

Population: 662
Where: 58 miles north of Wenatchee via Highway 97
Incorporated: 1913
History: Originally named Ives Landing; renamed Pateros in 1900, after a city in the Philippines. Suffered major fire that raced through town in the 1920s.
Outlook: “The Gateway to the Methow Valley” has become known for water recreation since the construction of Wells Dam, eight miles downriver, in 1967.

GALLERY

PATEROS — Smoke still hangs heavy this morning over Pateros neighborhoods, but insurance man Ryan Greene is about to start meeting with clients burned out by Thursday night’s firestorm.

Fire officials estimate 95 homes were destroyed in Pateros and the lower Methow Valley on Thursday evening as a wind-whipped wildfire descended from a nearby ridge to the banks of the Columbia River.

The fire took buildings at will — some here, some there,” said Greene, standing with his wife and mother in the yard of his Pateros home, scorched but still standing amid a green lawn. Twenty feet away, the charred rubble of a mobile home park spread over a quarter of a block.

We went from Level 1 alerts to Level 3 alerts in less than 10 minutes,” said Greene. Fire officials moved through neighborhoods about 7:30 p.m. Thursday warning residents to leave immediately — no time for packing. At one point, said Greene, officials threatened to arrest anyone not following evacuation orders.

Shortly after, flames from the Carlton Complex moved from a hillside behind Pateros through neighborhoods not far from the Methow and Columbia rivers. All that remained on many city lots this morning were lone chimneys, burnt-out vehicles, skeletons of motorcycles, scorched boats and piles of rubble — bricks, roof beams and burning fence planks.

Greene’s lawn ran right up to the property line of the destroyed mobile home park. Asked why his house was spared, he said, “I haven’t a clue. Maybe the wind and how it moves.”

Greene’s mother, Bev Weddle, sought refuge at her son’s home after their family home burned Thursday morning on French Creek. Greene had gone up to the home to help ward off the fire, but was told to leave by fire officials.

Now it’s like the fire is chasing us,” he said. “A wall of flame right behind us.”

Jeanette Palmer stayed in town through Thursday night’s fire rush. She described the town as deserted. She is the daughter of the owners of Howard’s on the River motel along the Columbia River.

Palmer said they were warned at 5 p.m. that fire was coming their way. By 8 p.m., the whole town was on fire, she said. “It just happened real fast,” she said. “It seemed like the whole town was in flames within minutes.”

She said she was looking forward to her first Apple Pie Jamboree, which is Pateros’ main summer festival. It’s assumed the festival has either been canceled or postponed.

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business or follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.

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