Firefighters in Southeast Washington were working on Tuesday to extinguish a blaze that has engulfed more than 500 acres since it erupted Sunday.
Local fire crews first responded to reports of a wildfire at 11:19 a.m. Sunday morning near Underwood, a small town in Skamania County near the state line with Oregon. Hot and windy conditions in the afternoon helped fuel the fire’s spread in a hillside community overlooking State Route 14 and the Columbia River, which divides Washington and Oregon, the firefighters said.
On Monday morning, officials said they had issued evacuation orders for people within a two-mile radius around the fire, which has been called the Tunnel Five Fire.
THE Portland’s National Weather Service has warned of potential wildfire conditions through Wednesday night in the region that includes parts of Gifford Pinchot National Forest northwest of Tunnel Five Fire.
Washington State, like California, saw a relatively quiet fire season last year compared to record-breaking seasons in 2020 and 2021, The Seattle Times reports it. But state officials feared persistent dry weather this year could lead to a more intense fire season than typically begins in June and ends in September.
An estimated 250 homes were threatened by the Tunnel Five fire, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, which helps monitor wildfires and facilitates coordination between agencies in Oregon and Washington.
The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Sunday evening that « several structures have been lost ».
A fire commander had estimated that up to 10 homes had been destroyed, but crews were working to verify that figure as they assessed the damage on Monday, according to Heather Appelhof, a public information officer for the Southeast Washington Interagency Incident Management Teamwhich includes the agencies that responded to the scene.
Zero percent of the fire had been contained as of Monday, according to officials.
An emergency shelter for evacuees has been set up at the local county fairgrounds, officials said, and residents in a nearby county east of the fire have been advised to prepare for potential evacuations.
Authorities have mobilized five crews, 26 fire engines and a total of 166 rescuers, along with more aircraft to the scene. Firefighter planes were scooping water from the nearby river to help put out the flames, authorities said.
The closest major population center is White Salmon, a town about two miles east of Tunnel Five Fire, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. About 2,500 people live thereaccording to Census Reporter.