Thursday, February 2, 2023
Feb. 2, 2023

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Nakia Creek Fire grows overnight, no change to evacuation zones

Crews working to create new containment lines around the blaze

By , Columbian staff reporter
Published:
3 Photos
A crew fighting the Nakia Creek Fire in east Clark County walks single file through the forest near Larch Mountain.
A crew fighting the Nakia Creek Fire in east Clark County walks single file through the forest near Larch Mountain. (Washington State Department of Natural Resources) Photo Gallery

The Nakia Creek Fire grew to 1,796 acres overnight, but officials said Tuesday the growth is normal as they establish new lines around the blaze.

Crews made progress toward increasing containment, with the help of cooler temperatures and lower humidity overnight. However, dense fog limited visibility for firefighters, according to a Tuesday update from Clark Regional Services Agency.

“Three small spot fires were found to the north and northwest of the main body of the fire on Monday,” the agency said. “Resources were immediately dispatched to these areas and were able to complete a fire line around all of them, keeping them small in size.”

Evacuation warnings did not change from Monday afternoon when the fire was at 1,565 acres. Structural fire crews remained to protect neighborhoods overnight, CRESA said.

The fire remained at 5 percent containment Tuesday, as crews from the Oregon Department of Forestry took over. As about 140 new personnel arrived, ODF spokeswoman Natalie Weber said they continued to establish lines around the fire by hand and by bulldozer and worked to keep the fire as small as possible.

Smoke from several area fires limited visibility Tuesday for aircraft, as well. Weber said steep terrain makes some areas inaccessible to ground crews, so aircraft are needed to fight the blaze. Officials were hopeful conditions would clear up later in the day.

“Rolling debris is a concern in areas with steep terrain, posing risks to firefighters working downslope,” CRESA said. “Crews will also be on the lookout for hazard trees and other dangerous situations.”

Weber said the weather outlook appears favorable and that officials aren’t too concerned about winds and 80 degree temperatures forecasted Wednesday in Camas. Crews are holding out for some weekend rain, which is expected to bring some relief starting Friday.

However, Weber said rain can also make the hillsides more prone to washing out, and authorities will keep firefighter safety in mind.

New crews arrive

Incident Commander Matt Howard said it’s been a couple of decades since the Oregon Department of Forestry had a team in Washington. New teams from the agency are arriving each day, and Howard said the fresh crews are excited to be here.

“The morale was high, and they recognize the need for them to be here,” Howard said. “The crews that are here are eager. They’re well trained. They’re seasoned after a long fire season, and they are ready to do good.”

He noted there’s still about 2,500 residents in evacuation zones and said fire crews are working hard to get people back home and back to their normal lives. He expects the crews to make significant progress on containing the blaze in the next few days.

Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Skidmore said deputies continue to patrol the evacuation areas to ensure the safety of homes and property. He also reminded people to stay out of the area and said deputies are still turning people around who are coming to the Larch Mountain area for recreation, like mountain biking, shooting and hunting.

Officials set up camp in a field across from Grove Field in Camas Tuesday afternoon. Tents were pitched in taped-off pods that ODF spokesman Joe Touchstone said is a part of the agency’s COVID-19 protocol. The camp was complete with showers, meal areas, hand-washing stations and everything firefighters need to stay through the week.

Weber said those who want to donate can make a financial contribution to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which helps the families of firefighters who are injured or killed.

Nakia Creek Fire

Tents begin to fill a field across from Grove Field in Camas for firefighters battling the Nakia Creek Fire. The camp will include meal areas, showers and everything crews need to rest up before heading back to the fire.Nakia Creek Fire grows overnight, no change to evacuation zones
The Nakia Creek Fire grew to 1,796 acres overnight, but officials said Tuesday the growth is normal as they establish new lines around the blaze.
The Interstate 5 Bridge stretches across a hazy Columbia River on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2022, as seen from the Vancouver Waterfront. Smoke from the Nakia Creek Fire and a morning layer of fog pushed air quality into the “unhealthy” range.East Clark County air quality pushed into unhealthy range
Air quality significantly degraded overnight, pushing into the unhealthy range across parts of Southwest Washington and Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Columbia counties in Oregon. Smoke…
The Clark County Fire Marshal's Office is asking for the public's help identifying the vehicle pictured as a part of the investigation into the cause of the Nakia Creek Fire. The agency said the image was captured at around 3:30 p.m. Oct. 9 on a ridge near Larch Mountain.Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office seeks vehicle, people of interest in wildfire investigation
The Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office is asking for the public’s help identifying a vehicle and the people associated with it as a part of…
(The Columbian files)Larch prisoners remain offsite due to Nakia Creek Fire
Incarcerated individuals at Larch Corrections Center are settling into temporary housing after being evacuated Sunday from the minimum security facility, near Yacolt, due to the…

The Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office is seeking to identify a vehicle of interest and the people associated with it as a part of the investigation into the cause of the fire. The agency shared a video Monday that was reportedly recorded at about 3:30 p.m. Oct. 9 and depicts a light-colored SUV before panning to a plume of smoke rising from the hillside. The Nakia Creek Fire was reported at around 3:45 p.m. that day. Officials have said the fire was human caused due to a lack of lightning at the time.

Skidmore said the fire marshal’s office has been inundated with tips, although he didn’t know how many were legitimate. He said the video was taken by someone who was in the area and the witness interviewed led investigators to believe there were two men and two women associated with the vehicle at the time.

Popping sounds can be heard on the video, and Skidmore said investigators believe the people were shooting off some sort of pyrotechnics.

Skidmore noted the burn bans that have been in place this summer.

“It’s just unfortunate because this is what it ends up costing,” he said.

Anyone with information about the vehicle or the people associated with it is asked to call the fire marshal’s office at 564-397-3320.

To see if a house is in the evacuation zone, visit the Nakia Creek Fire GIS Interactive Map.

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