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The Worm: Wildfire edition

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A new Pateros Strong banner went up where the old Pateros welcome sign burned.

The fire and the 4-year-old

Itzel Garcia turned 4 on July 7. She and her mom are now living with Itzel’s grandma, Maria Garibay, because their own home burned in the Pateros firestorm.

Itzel’s birthday presents burned along with it.

My house is all gone,” she said Wednesday, fidgeting at a picnic table at the relief center set up in Pateros High School. Her grandma and cousins were there, too. Her mom was at work at Gebbers Farms.

Itzel wore a surviving present — some colorful sandals, which she showed off by extending a foot.

Her cousins Osvaldo Anaya, 13, and Diego Anaya, 9, said that Itzel had received new toys from relief center volunteers.

This is how she tells the story of fire night:

This is our hometown. This is our downtown. This is where we live,” she said. “My house was white, but now it’s black. The fire was in the mountains. The school almost burned down, but it didn’t.”

The perils of auto correct

The good news is that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved federal funding July 17 to help fight the Carlton Complex fires. The not-so-good news is the curious — but not altogether inappropriate — spellings of two of our affected communities.

One shelter in the Twisted Community Center was operating around the clock … ” the release reads, in reference to Twisp.

In another reference, the town of Carlton, near where the 250,000-acre fire started, is identified as “Charlton.”

Some might argue that “Twisted” isn’t too far off track for this friendly, funky community. “Char” speaks for itself.

Singed by the fire

Pateros High School Principal Mike Hull was sporting a singed beard and mustache on Monday. When asked if he had been out fighting the fire, Hull looked embarrassed and said no, he was firing up the barbecue to help serve meals to fire victims at the school, and didn’t quite know how to handle the massive cooker.

Condolences from far and wide

Gail Howe, former mayor of Pateros, said she got an email from Joey Medina, the mayor of Pateros’ sister city, Pateros, Philippines, telling her that during a flag-raising ceremony this week, they had a moment of silence for the losses in Pateros, Wash. She’s also received communications from Philippines residents in California who forged a bond with their Washington counterparts asking where to send donations. The bond between the two cities just keeps growing, Howe said.

Talk about generous

Kathy Harding of Omak, whose mother and stepfather lost their home to fire in downtown Pateros, said they were out salvaging what they could when a woman and man drove up in a black pickup truck and started handing everyone $50 bills. “They were just driving around town giving out money. She said she wanted to remain anonymous,” Harding said.

In rain, sleet, hail…

But how about wildfires? The U.S. Postal Service may not be able to deliver all the mail, but they’re on top of it. When Twisp went to a Level 2 evacuation last week, postal workers explained to patrons that the mail had been evacuated, too. Election ballots, which went out in the mail last week, may have been delayed, too. Okanogan County deputy auditor Mila Jury was worried that ballots to people who lost their homes would be sent back to the auditor’s office. But the Postal Service was on top of it there, too. Jury said post offices are holding all mail for people whose homes are lost at their local post office to pick up. You still have until Aug. 5 to vote and get it mailed back.

New sign says it all

A new sign greeting travelers went up Thursday night along Highway 97 where the old Pateros sign burned. Frank Mudgett and his fiance Alyssa White had the “Pateros Strong” banner made. They contacted Pateros Mayor Libby Harrison who helped them and friends put the sign up.

I couldn’t stand driving into town without seeing the Pateros sign, so we all pitched in and got one,” said White, a Pateros native who now lives in Wenatchee. Mudgett, finance director at Town Ford in East Wenatchee ,got donations from his employees to help pay for the sign. “It’s just a temporary sign, but it will do until they can put up a permanent one,” said Mudgett, who, with White, has been driving to Pateros daily with truckloads of donated water and other items.

This week’s Worm was written by World staff reporters Christine Pratt, K.C. Mehaffey and Rick Steigmeyer. Got a tip? Email newsroom@wenatcheeworld.com

Reach Christine Pratt at 509-665-1173 or . Follow her on Twitter at @CPrattWW.

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