by: Libby Harrison
This is my story about the fires in Okanogan County, July 17th 2014...the worst day of our lives.
We moved to Pateros about five years ago and bought our first home together as husband and wife. We fell in love with the Pateros area and our adorable little home and knew that this was going to be where we were going to raise our daughter Avery and probably spend the rest of our lives. When things took a turn for the worst on July 17th 2014 at about 6pm, we were told to grab what we could and get out because the fire had made its way around the orchards above our home and was headed our way. Of course I started to panic, grabbed our daughter, animals and a few, and I mean a few belongings and headed downtown to the parking area and watched as everything burned. It was the most unreal thing I had ever seen in my life, words can not explain what we all sat there and watched. It was like a huge dark monster had taken over our town, the winds were wiping, fire being picked up and placed in random area, fire everywhere, sirens going off, cops and fire trucks everywhere telling people to get out, it was unbelievable! We left the area with all that we had, which was not a lot. . .dogs, goats, kid, sister, mom, husband and George and headed for Chelan. It wasn't until we were almost to Wells Dam that we realized it was still light outside. By the time we all make it to Chelan safe and sound I think things started to settle in. We would not come home to our adorable house that we had bought almost 5 years ago and that realization came true at about 3:40 am when I got word that our house was gone. Not only our house but the entire block had burned which included my moms house. We were not able to come back to Pateros until Saturday because of the roads being closed, and honestly I wasn't sure I was ready. By Saturday morning we were able to head back to what we once called home and see what was left. . . NOTHING, absolutely nothing of our home was left. Our house, sheds, garage, and the old Pateros ice house was burned to the ground. When we arrived and I got out of the car I fell to my knees in disbelief of what I saw, all of our stuff gone just gone, nothing left but a partially burnt play set, our swimming pool, boat and our camper all some how survived the fire. It was a feeling that I never want to feel again. The days went on after that and things started to settle in of what really just happened. My daughter took it pretty hard. I can't even imagine what was going through her head as I knew what we were feeling but my heart broke for her.
As the days went on people started showing up in our town to help sort through the ruble and sift through peoples belongings. When you sit and look at all the ash and think that there is no way that anything can come out of that, well you are wrong, I thought the same thing. As they sorted through our ash, it was amazing what they found. The one thing that stands out to me was the St. Christopher pendant that they found. It was my fathers and given to him by his first long term girlfriend and when he pasted almost 8 years ago it was given to me. I will never forget that moment of when they called and said they found it. There is so much good that comes from all of this bad and we just have to keep remembering that. I say to myself all the time, sure we lost everything and some things we will never be able to get back but most of it yes. We will be able to build an adorable new home with new everything and build just the way we want it. We still love Pateros more than anything and are still excited if not even more to raise our daughter here and spend the rest of our lives here in this amazing community with all of these amazing people. The outreach and resources that we saw during a time like this was overwhelming and pretty darn amazing! I am proud to say I live in Pateros and can not wait to rebuild and make this community even more amazing! One thing I will pass along and hope that you will share with others. . . . This is a saying from a very wonderful women that lives here in Pateros, with out her I'm not quite sure how we would of gotten through all of this. She told me a story and these words stuck with me,
"We are good
We are loved
and everything is going to be ok!"
I will hold these words close to my heart as long as I shall live.
Best wishes to all as they rebuild not only their homes but the lives!
And I would say the things we need the most are machinery for dirt work, people to help with our fence, things to help us get our house started. We should have our plans back this week and then are hoping to be able to get our foundation in so that we can get it all framed up before the snow flies! : ) I'm not sure whats out there for this kind of help but anything would be appreciated!!