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News / Clark County News

Washington lands commissioner visits Tunnel Five Fire in Columbia River Gorge; containment at 20%

Wildfire near Underwood still at 556 acres

By Amy Libby, Columbian Web Editor
Published: July 7, 2023, 7:32am
4 Photos
Washington State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz talks with wildland firefighters battling the Tunnel Five Fire in the Columbia River Gorge on Thursday.
Washington State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz talks with wildland firefighters battling the Tunnel Five Fire in the Columbia River Gorge on Thursday. (Courtesy of State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz) Photo Gallery

Washington Public Lands commissioner and candidate for governor Hilary Franz visited the Tunnel Five Fire site and met with firefighters on Thursday.

“I watched as a crew battled the famously steep slopes of the Gorge, working in the hot sun to keep the Tunnel 5 Fire at bay. A firefighter on the line told me: ‘This is the earliest I’ve ever been out,'” Franz said in a post on Facebook.

The fire that started Sunday in the Gorge community of Underwood about 3 miles west of White Salmon, is holding steady at 556 acres and containment grew from 5 percent to 20 percent on Thursday, according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

“Sadly, this fire season is already highly explosive,” Franz said on Facebook. “Our firefighters are trained up, our critical initial attack, our significant air resources positioned throughout the state, and our technology to assist us in fighting these fires is more sophisticated than ever. The team on the Tunnel 5 Fire is using infrared cameras to identify and respond to hot spots faster than ever.”

Some 449 personnel are battling the fire, which is believed to be human caused but still under investigation. Resources include 39 engines, 10 crews, five helicopters and four single-engine air tankers.

Evacuation areas were expanded on Thursday, according to the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office, with some expansion of the Level 3 Go Now area and Level 2 Be Set areas added to the east and west of the Level 3 area.

“Significant changes are a level reduction on the eastern portion of the affected area and an increased notice to the west,” the agency said on Facebook. “If you have any questions regarding your evacuation level, please call 509-427-8076.”

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center reported 10 residences were destroyed and 250 residences threatened, along with 15 nonresidential properties and 50 minor structures. Officials said Wednesday their primary focus is to protect homes and private dwellings and lands, including agriculture.

State Highway 14 remains closed between mileposts 56 and 65, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. Eastbound travelers can detour at Bridge of the Gods to I-84 then onto Hood River Bridge. Westbound travelers can detour at Hood River Bridge to I-84 then onto Bridge of the Gods.

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