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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Feb. 21, 2024

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All Nakia Creek Fire evacuation orders lifted

Containment at 23 percent

By , Columbian staff reporter

All evacuation warnings were lifted Thursday as the Nakia Creek Fire reached 23 percent containment.

The fire grew by 49 acres since Wednesday morning to 1,918 acres, but officials say such limited growth is expected as firefighters establish lines around the fire, according to Clark Regional Emergency Service Agency.

Better weather conditions Wednesday meant aircraft were able to make progress in steep areas that are hard to reach for ground crews, the agency said.

Fall weather is expected to arrive Friday, bringing cooler weather and up to an inch of rain. The Oregon Department of Forestry has said the rain will help suppress the fire but also create hazardous conditions for firefighters through the risk of mudslides.

“Extended forecasts predict a more normal weather pattern will remain, bringing an end to an unusually dry start to fall across the region,” the CRESA statement reads.

With the evacuations zones lifted, Clark County sheriff’s Commander KC Kasberg said there were still no homes damaged by the fires.

“I know they’ve been itching to do that for quite a while, but we didn’t want to do it prematurely either, because this is an unprecedented situation in our county,” Kasberg said of removing evacuation warnings. “And so we wanted to make sure it was definitely the right time to get people back to their houses.”

Officials reduced evacuation zones Wednesday afternoon and eliminated the Level 1 “Get Ready” warning. People can find an evacuation map at tinyurl.com/NakiaCreekEvacs.

Kasberg said deputies who have been patrolling the closed areas will turn over enforcement to a private security firm hired by the incident management team.

Roads near the fire remain closed, including the L-1,000, L-1,400, L-1,500 and L-1,600 roads.

Washington State Forester George Geissler said that although this wildfire season hasn’t broken records in terms of the number of ares burned, the lack of rain this summer has meant the fires that have burned across the state have been burning more intensely than usual.

Geissler also warns that although rain is in the forecast, this summer’s drought will keep fire danger high until there is sustained rainfall.

“We’re asking people to please still be cautious,” he said. “Don’t just look at the calendar and say, ‘Oh, fire season’s over,’ look at the conditions around you and pay attention to what you’re doing.”

Incident Commander Matt Howard said crews are doing their best to contain the fire as quickly as possible to reduce the smoke and improve air quality.

Nakia Creek Fire

Marcus Kauffman of the Oregon Department of Forestry, left, passes fire crews as they work at the Nakia Fire on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 19, 2022.All Nakia Creek Fire evacuation orders lifted
All evacuation warnings were lifted Thursday as the Nakia Creek Fire reached 23 percent containment.
Thick smoke from the Nakia Fire clogs the air, as seen from the Camas Creek Watershed on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 19, 2022.Air quality in Clark County remains unhealthy
Air quality throughout Clark County and much of Western Washington and Oregon continues to be poor, with smoke covering much of both states from the…
A small flame burns in the Camas Creek Watershed while firefighters tackle the Nakia Fire on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 19, 2022.Safety first on front lines of Nakia Creek Fire
Through a thin but pervasive layer of smoke, Tyler Arbogast, division supervisor for the Oregon Department of Forestry, watches seven firefighters…
12 Photos
Firefighter Leo Gonzalez, center, sprays smoldering ground in the Camas Creek Watershed while working with colleagues to tackle the Nakia Fire on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 19, 2022.
Nakia Creek Fire front lines Photo Gallery

Oregon Department of Forestry assists in Nakia Creek firefighting

The Oregon Department of Forestry took over incident command of the Nakia Creek Fire when it was upgraded to a Type 2 team after Sunday’s winds spread the fire past containment lines. Washington State Forester George Geissler said the Washington State Department of Natural Resources has partnered with ODF for decades through a regional, interstate agreement. When the fire needed more resources than were available locally, the Oregon team was close by, he said.

“At this point in the year, resources do get rather thin,” Geissler said. “You do have a lot of personnel that are college students or teachers or returning to jobs, so across the U.S., the number of teams and the number of crews are on a trajectory down. In this case, ODF was the closest, best Type 1 (team) that we could get, so bringing them in was the most obvious choice for us. Each state does not fight fire alone.”

ODF Incident Manager Matt Howard said he anticipates turning leadership back over to the local DNR unit soon with containment increasing and evacuation warnings lifted.

“It really doesn’t matter if you’re in Oregon or Washington, there’s only so much fire, so much complexity a local unit can manage, and that’s why we have incident management teams,” Howard said. “And they needed some help, and we were happy to come provide that help. You should be really proud of this local WDNR unit and this agency.”