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Nakia Creek Fire at 1,565 acres; evacuation zones shrink

The fire is 5 percent contained

By , Columbian staff reporter,
, Columbian staff writer, and
, Columbian staff reporter
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7 Photos
Clark County Sheriff public information officer Chris Skidmore talks to media Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, during a briefing at Grove Field in Camas. The Nakia Creek Fire ballooned to more than 1400 acres after dry and windy conditions on Sunday.
Clark County Sheriff public information officer Chris Skidmore talks to media Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, during a briefing at Grove Field in Camas. The Nakia Creek Fire ballooned to more than 1400 acres after dry and windy conditions on Sunday. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Evacuation zones shrank Monday as firefighters worked to bring the Nakia Creek Fire back under control after it grew tenfold over the weekend to 1,565 acres.

As of Saturday morning, the fire was smoldering after burning 156 acres and getting progressively more contained by crews, according to Washington Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Sharon Steriti.

That changed on Sunday, when hot, dry and windy weather gave new life to a fire.

“It was looking really good, and as you may also know, we had a red flag warning on Sunday,” Steriti said. “And the fire unfortunately got across the line during the evening (Saturday), and on Sunday morning, it was discovered that it was burning over the line. And then the east winds and weather came in, and kind of changed the story.”

Steriti was optimistic Monday afternoon that calmer, cooler weather would allow firefighters to get more of a handle on the fire. The high temperature for Camas is forecast to reach 77 degrees Tuesday, the National Weather Service shows.

“We’re not going to be getting those winds that we got over the weekend, so the conditions and weather are looking pretty good to make some really good advances in getting this fire under control,” she said Monday.

No structures have been destroyed and no one has been injured from the fire, she said. The fire was 5 percent contained Monday, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Evacuation zones grew rapidly Sunday to include nearly 29,000 residences in the areas of Camas and Washougal under a Level 1 “Get Ready” warning. Estimates that night placed the fire at 2,000 acres until crews could get a better look at conditions Monday morning, according to Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency.

Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Skidmore said officials erred on the side of caution when setting evacuation zones. Sheriff’s office Search and Rescue crews knocked on about 600 doors Sunday to notify the residents they were under a Level 3 “Go Now” warning, Skidmore said.

But with more favorable weather Monday, authorities hoped to allow some to return home. About 2,500 people were still in warning zones, with 553 of under a Level 3 warning, according to CRESA.

Some roads also reopened Monday, including Northeast 53rd Street to Northeast 292nd Avenue and Northeast Blair Road at Washougal River Road to state Highway 500. Closures remained, as of Monday evening, in the areas of Lessard, Ireland, Livingston Mountain, Boulder Creek and Winters. The L1000 and L1400 roads are also still closed.

Rumors of rampant looting in evacuated areas are not true, Skidmore said, and deputies have been patrolling neighborhoods and road closure areas.

Steriti noted this summer has been one of the driest on record and said it’s not normal to have a wildfire like this so late in the year.

Sunday’s extreme weather conditions also sparked new fires, including the Black Hole Fire near Chelatchie Prairie. Officials issued a Level 1 warning for the northeast corner of Clark County and the northwest corner of Skamania County.

There’s no indication any new fires nearby sparked from the Nakia Creek Fire, Steriti said.

Those in need of help can reach the Emergency Operations Center for Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency at 360-992-9229. People can also sign up for phone and email alerts publicalerts.org/signup.

School closures

The Washougal School District will operate school with regular bell times today, the district announced Monday afternoon. The district closed schools Monday due to the fire.

As of the updated evacuation map shared Monday morning, no schools within district boundaries remained within evacuation zones.

Two of the Washougal district’s schools, Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School and Canyon Creek Middle School, had been previously located in the Level 3 evacuation area and were closed by the fire chief Sunday. Gause Elementary School was open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to provide on-site meals, support and recreational activities.

Schools in the Camas School District will again be open today. The district has modified several of its bus routes in accordance with fire evacuation zones, according to a district spokesperson.

Bus No. 6 will be canceled. Buses No. 3, No. 7, No. 15, No. 66 and No. 68 will all be running with limited service due to road closures. The district said it will continue to monitor evacuation zones and make further adjustments accordingly.

Evergreen Public Schools sent out a message to families Sunday evening to let them know they were monitoring the situation via the Clark Regional Emergency Service Agency’s website. Monday’s evacuation map showed just a handful of areas in the Evergreen district remain within the Level 1 boundary: Union High School, Frontier Middle School and Pioneer Elementary School.

Mount Pleasant schools were closed Monday. There was no word, as of Monday afternoon, if they would reopen Tuesday.

Poor air quality

Air quality ranged between moderate and unhealthy Monday in parts of Clark County as a result of the wildfire smoke.

The Vancouver area is expected to be in the moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups air quality range for the next few days, while areas closer to the fire, such as Battle Ground and Yacolt, are predicted to be in the unhealthy to hazardous level, according to Uri Papish, executive director of the Southwest Clean Air Agency.

The agency is extending its air quality advisory through Thursday when a stronger wind flow is expected to push the smoke east, according to Papish.

Papish recommends that people who may be more sensitive limit their time spent outdoors, limit strenuous activity and limit indoor air pollution by not burning candles or incense and keeping doors and windows closed.

If you are outside in areas with unhealthy for sensitive groups to hazardous air quality, Papish strongly recommends wearing a snug-fitting KN95 mask. Less-secure medical masks will not do much to help avoid inhaling particulate matter, according to Papish.

People at an increased risk for problems from decreased air quality include children, those over 65, people with heart and lung disease, people with respiratory infections, pregnant people and people who smoke, among others, according to a press release sent out by Clark County Public Health. The release did note that “even healthy people can have symptoms or health problems” when the air is smoky.

Some symptoms include: sore throat, headaches, burning eyes, coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain. If you are experiencing more severe symptoms, like shortness of breath or chest pain, the release urges individuals to seek medical attention.

“Check the air monitoring network,” Papish said. “Stay indoors and take measures to protect (your health).”

For up-to-date information on air quality in your area visit www.swcleanair.gov, airnow.gov or wasmoke.blogspot.com.

13 Photos
Sharon Steriti of the Washington Department of Natural Resources speaks in front of television cameras Monday, Sept. 17, 2022, during a media briefing at Grove Field in Camas. The Nakia Creek Fire ballooned to more than 1400 acres after dry and windy conditions on Sunday.
Nakia Creek Fire, Oct. 17 Photo Gallery
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