KELSO, Wash. — A faith-based recovery center for people with addiction issues caught fire Sunday evening, injuring two firefighters, and residents spent Monday salvaging what they could.
The fire started just before 5 p.m. Sunday in a fireplace at the Mountain Ministries recovery center southeast of Kelso, according to Cowlitz County Fire and Rescue. The fire spread from the chimney to the roof of the building.
Fire officials say two firefighters became exhausted while fighting the fire and were taken to St. John Medical Center in Longview.
No one else was hurt. It took five hours for crews to put out the fire, officials said.
The founders of the center picked through the debris of their building Monday.
The people living there were at the house when the fire started. They were about to go to church when they heard a loud noise. Mark Rose and his fellow program members saw smoke and fire above a woodstove.
He and others tried to put out the fire with hoses and bowls of water, but they couldn’t stop it; however, fire crews couldn't either. They trucked tanks of water 12 miles up the hill to try and save the house.
Inside the home were hundreds of presents just wrapped the night before for the many graduates and volunteers who help Mountain Ministries.
In the ashes, however, Dakota Otton’s Christmas money in a felt snowman was found.
Founder of Mountain Ministries, Gary Miller, dug up a burned wad of cash that will help buy clothes for the eight people now without.
"The good part is there could have been a bunch of people hurt or dead," he said. "I feel for the people in fires that lose somebody. This is just stuff."
But there were more than just gifts, clothes and money. There were also years of wisdom, hope and prayer.
"For years I was addicted to alcohol and drugs. I was in and out of prison," said Rose. "This place helped me change my life. If it wasn't for this place, there'd be a lot of lost souls."
Miller said the program will go on. They have other properties and many volunteers, and this fire will not even count as a roadblock on their road to helping people recover.
KATU News reporter Kerry Tomlinson contributed to this report.