The Nakia Creek Fire in eastern Clark County doubled in size Sunday, prompting a significant expansion of mandatory evacuation zones affecting about 1,000 homes on the rural outskirts of Camas and Washougal and warning zones stretching as far as Hockinson and East Vancouver.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office reported around 14.30 that the fire had broken through containment lines and is moving aggressively to the west and southwest.
The fire has grown from 156 acres to about 350 acres, according to the Department of Natural Resources
A large plume of smoke, blowing generally from east to west, became visible throughout the metro area late Sunday morning as fire activity intensified.
“This is very dynamic, wind-driven fire with long-distance spotting,” DNR spokeswoman Trina Contreras said Sunday afternoon before a 9 p.m. news conference. 3:30 p.m. at Grove Field in Camas. She said emergency alerts have been sent to about 3,000 residents using the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency’s alert system.
Contreras said the fire was contained until strong winds whipped up Sunday morning and drove the fire to the west and southwest.
“The wind up there was really gusty and we got a significant amount of growth,” Contreras said.
The high winds prevented the use of an air tanker on the fire earlier in the day, but Contreras said conditions had improved by Sunday afternoon and the tanker was being used again.
Fire activity has increased as the area remained under a red flag warning of wind and low humidity until 8 p.m. 18.00 Sunday. Southeast winds of 10-20 mph were forecast in the area of the fire with gusts up to 30 mph and humidity as low as 22 percent.
The National Weather Service reported that an air quality alert remains in effect for the area until 6 p.m. 17.00 Monday. The website AirNow.gov lists air quality as moderate to unhealthy in parts of Southwest Washington due to smoke from wildfires.
The Nakia Creek fire started on October 9 in an extremely steep area covered by a mix of brush, mid-cut slash and timber. Before the fire spread, containment on Sunday was estimated at 20 percent.
The fire had been smoldering and creeping with some burning sightings and short range spotting. Fire managers said the potential for fire growth remains and containment lines are staying in place.
Contreras said there are 110 people working on the fire with a spotter plane and an air tanker. A larger Type 2 team has been called in and will assist in the effort, she said.
Roads close, evacuation sites open
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has about 20 deputies who are in the evacuation area, as well as 30 members of the Clark County Search and Rescue, said Sgt. Chris Skidmore, public information officer for the department.
Several roads are blocked off in the evacuation areas. Most of the area is sparsely populated, but the department went in with loudspeaker announcements and is beginning to knock on the residential areas being evacuated around Northeast Lessard Road, Northeast Boulder Creek Road, Winters Road and Northeast Rawson Road.
“We’re asking people if they don’t have a house up there or helping somebody try to get back to get out of the area,” Skidmore said during a news conference Sunday afternoon at Grove Field in Camas.
People living in the area or trying to help those in the area are being let back in, but emergency workers are stopping and talking to cars in an attempt to keep as many people out as possible.
“What we’re telling people is if they go in, we may not be able to guarantee that emergency services or things like that can get to them if it goes further,” Skidmore said.
The sheriff’s department was working to close roads, help control access and help people who needed to get out, Skidmore said.
Evacuation zones have been expanded repeatedly throughout the day and may expand more, officials warned. Updated fire and evacuation information will be posted at www.cresa911.org.
A shelter has been opened by the American Red Cross at the Camas Church of the Nazarene, 2204 NE Birch St, Camas, and at the Washougal Church of the Nazarene, 573 30th St., Washougal.
ilani has opened car park 10 and 11 for evacuees. Those using the grounds are asked to post a sign in their window that reads “Fire Evacuees.” No RV services are available and gray water must be dumped at Gee Creek Rest Area.
For livestock, call 360-607-2535 for assistance. Livestock had been taken to the Clark County Fairgrounds, 17402 NE Delfel Road, Ridgefield, but Skidmore said it was full.
Those in need of assistance can contact the Emergency Operations Center for Clark Regional Emergency Services at 360-992-9229.
“They can start trying to prioritize getting people help there,” Skidmore said.
The Level 3 “Go Now” mandatory evacuation area has been expanded to include the Larch Mountain Corrections Center and outlying areas in Camas and Washougal, including Bear Prairie and the Ireland area near Livingston Mountain. Contreras said as of Sunday afternoon, Larch staff and shelter workers were in place.
Level 2 “Get Set” voluntary evacuation area now expands to Hockinson and northern Camas and Washougal.
Level 1 “Get Ready” warnings extend across Camas and Washougal and as far west as Northeast 182nd Avenue and as far north and Northeast Sunset Falls Road.
Those in “Level 3 Go Now” should evacuate south toward Washougal River Road into Washougal.
“Please understand that this is a very dynamic situation and if you are near this area, you should take precautions to evacuate,” said a bulletin from CRESA.
The American Red Cross offered these wildfire protection tips to those in the fire area:
Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice and obey all evacuation orders from officials.
- Put your car back in the garage, or park it outside, facing the direction of your evacuation route.
- Keep your pets in one room so you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
- Limit exposure to smoke and dust. Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from entering.
- Do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves.
- If you are trapped outdoors, squat in a pond, river or pool.
- Do not put wet clothes or a bandana over your mouth or nose, as moist air can cause more damage to your airways than dry air at the same temperature.
- If there is no water, look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks. Lie flat face down and cover your body with soil. Breathe the air close to the ground to avoid burning your lungs or inhaling smoke.
- Do not return home until officials say it is safe to do so.
- Inspect the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers. Wildfires may have left embers that could be rekindled.
- Check your home for embers that could cause a fire. Look for signs of fire, including smoke or sparks.
- Avoid damaged or broken power lines, poles and wires.
- Keep a close eye on your animals. Hidden embers and hot spots can burn them.
- Moisten dirt to minimize inhalation of dust particles.
- Wear work gloves and shoes with heavy soles.
- Throw away food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
- Download the Red Cross Emergency app for real-time alerts, open Red Cross shelters and expert advice on wildfires. The Emergency app includes an “I’m safe” feature that helps people check on their loved ones. Search “American Red Cross” in app stores or go to redcross.org/apps.