Kelso recovery center on the hook for firefighting bill

KELSO, Wash. -- A faith-based recovery house near Kelso that burned nearly one week ago is about to get a big bill from the nearby fire department.

Fire destroyed the Mountain Ministries recovery center Sunday night. The center helps people who have addiction issues, is about a 30 minute drive from Kelso and is far from any fire hydrants.

The center is on the hook for the cost of fighting the fire because the Cowlitz County Fire District ends just a few yards down the road.

Assistant Chief Alan Headley said they feel bad about the bill, but they're required by law to charge the property owner if the property is not in the district.

"Otherwise, it's a gift of public funds," Headley said. "We can get in trouble for that if we don't follow through with that."

"We kind of feel like the bad guys. That's not what we're here for," said Headley.

Mountain Ministries founder Gary Miller says they do not have the money to pay, but they do not fault the firefighters.

"They were doing everything they could do," said Miller. "I don't resent them charging me."

Mountain Ministries started as a logger's home, built in the 1890s.

The eight people who were living at the center escaped without any injuries. Two firefighters became exhausted while fighting the fire and were taken to St. John Medical Center in Longview.

Some neighbors have tried to gather signatures to annex the area so it would be covered in future fires. But so far, they've failed to get enough people to sign.

  • Anyone who wants to donate to the center's reconstruction fund can send donations to the Mountain Ministries Construction Account at Fibre Federal Credit Union account 495371.

Miller said the program will go on at Mountain Ministries. For now, they're going to pray for help.

"We all get our faces on the floor, literally, we get on our faces and we pray it in," said Miller.

"And God always sends it."