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News / Clark County News

Warm, dry, windy weather fans dangerous brush fires in Vancouver area

Fires near Burnt Bridge Greenway, Northeast 56th Way prompt evacuation warnings

By Lauren Ellenbecker, Columbian staff writer,
Mark Bowder, Columbian Metro Editor, and
Amy Libby, Columbian Web Editor
Published: June 5, 2023, 6:00pm
7 Photos
Vancouver firefighters work to put out a hotspot on a burned building Monday, June 5, 2023, on Northeast 68th Avenue in Vancouver.
Vancouver firefighters work to put out a hotspot on a burned building Monday, June 5, 2023, on Northeast 68th Avenue in Vancouver. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Warm, dry and windy conditions fanned several vegetation fires on Monday afternoon, including two that prompted evacuation warnings in two Vancouver area neighborhoods.

The first fire was reported at 2:10 p.m. in the Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway area underneath BPA power lines and moved south toward a series of houses perched above the greenway on Northeast 16th Street.

Residences north of Northeast 16th Street were told by Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency to evacuate, while homes north of 14th street were told to Be Ready.

About an hour later, a second fire was reported near Northeast 56th Way between Northeast 68th Avenue and Andresen Road. Fire spread to a shop building on a neighboring property and spread to trees adjacent to a densely packed duplex neighborhood. A second alarm was called for that fire.

Most of Vancouver Fire Department’s suppression units were deployed at the Burnt Bridge Creek fire, requiring three Clark County Fire District 6 units — a mutual aid partner — to assist at the structure fire.

“You have factors here that you don’t want to see,” said Fire District 6 spokesperson David Schmitke, referencing the low humidity and wind.

Vancouver Fire Department spokesperson Raymond Egan said there were “red flag” conditions, an industry term used when examining natural vegetation and humidity that can lead to how fast fires spread and grow. The wind was blowing from the west to the east, adding to the potential for fire to spread.

CRESA put a Be Ready to evacuate notice in for a few dozen homes between Andresen and Northeast 66th Avenue between Northeast 55th and 58th streets but canceled the notice after the fire was brought under control at 4:16 p.m.

Inna and Dimitri Vityukov, who live in a duplex adjacent to the burning structure, said their fence began to catch on fire after embers jumped from trees nearby. Responders immediately began breaking down the fence and hosing down the area.

As the shop building smoldered, children from the surrounding areas flocked to see what was happening. Some set up foldable chairs in their driveways as fire engines pulled into the scene.

The Vancouver Fire Marshal will investigate the Burnt Bridge Creek fire, and the Clark County Fire Marshal will investigate the 56th Way shop fire.

Andresen Boulevard was temporarily closed north of Vancouver Mall Drive. Crews made use of a Clark County Sheriff’s Office drone to look for hot spots caused by windblown fire debris.

In addition to the two larger fires, fire crews were dealing with three smaller vegetation fires at about 4 p.m.: in the 2400 block of Northeast 139th Street, in the 1000 block of East McLoughlin Boulevard and along Interstate 5 near the Mill Plain Boulevard interchange.

The fires spread as temperatures at Pearson Field reached 80 degrees with only 20 percent humidity and 18 mph winds gusting to 28 mph.

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Columbian staff writer
Columbian Metro Editor