I Watched My Church Burn: Washington Man Faces Down Wildfires

Jul 22, 2014

UPDATE 7/22/2014, 9:44 a.m.

KUOW's Lisa Brooks checked back in with Bruce Craven Tuesday morning to get an update on how his town was faring after the Carlton Complex fire ripped through Thursday evening.

He said the fire he witnessed in Pateros burned up the vegetation all around his church, but the structure itself is intact, albeit with char marks on the outside and broken windows.

Residents including Craven were able to attend services there on Sunday. Craven said many congregants had lost everything in the fire.

A town meeting was held in Pateros Monday night to discuss issues such as power and water. Residents are still under a boil order. Craven said that officials estimate that Saturday would be the earliest for power to be restored, but it could possibly take a month.

But, he said, the town is resilient.

"Our town has really come together and I think we saw it last night, especially," Craven said. "Everybody's anxious to move on. We want to rebuild out town and make it a little bit better than it was before."

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Bruce Craven, a resident of a small town in the heart of wildfire country, is staring down the fires.

“I’m right on the highway, I feel safe. My sprinklers are going,” Craven said. “I guess if the cul-de-sac goes, if some houses there start to go, then I guess I might have to rethink that. But the way things look now, I’m staying.”

Craven is from Pateros, a town of 662 near Lake Chelan that was evacuated on Thursday night. He first noticed the fire when he was outside barbecuing.

“We watched the fire come up over the top of the hill towards the house and decided to evacuate everybody out of the house except for myself,” Craven told KUOW’s Lisa Brooks on Friday. Pateros is near Lake Chelan. “I stood up on the roof most the night with a garden hose trying to make sure my house didn’t burn down.”

As his town burned, he walked down the road to watch his church, Pateros Community Church, burn. 

“The church that we attend, that my kids have both been baptized at, I sat down and watched it burn,” he said. He later learned that the church was only slightly damaged. But every building around the church, including the pastor's house, are now gone. 

Craven's cul-de-sac of about 10 houses survived, but he knows of other people who have lost their homes. On Friday morning, he said he knew of devastation, but he couldn’t tell how bad it was, because he couldn’t see it through the smoke.