UNDERWOOD, Wash. (KGW) — The Tunnel 5 Fire, a wildfire burning in timber and brush near the small town of Underwood in southeast Skamania County, Washington, grew to 533 acres overnight and destroyed “several structures,” the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Level 3 (Go Now) evacuation orders in a two-mile radius around the fire (see evacuation orders map) remain in place Monday, fire officials said. On Sunday, authorities said the fire was threatening about 100 structures. The origin of the fire is still under investigation.
State Route 14 is closed in both directions across a 10-mile stretch near Drano Lake to Underwood.
The fire, which started Sunday morning around 11:20 a.m. and grew quickly due to extreme terrain and hot, windy conditions, is burning across the Columbia River from Hood River in Oregon.
The fire mostly stayed within the perimeter set by firefighters Sunday night, but did experience moderate growth on the west, according to the Southeast Washington Incident Management Team 1 (SEWAIMT).
Fire crews from multiple agencies continue to focus on keeping the fire maintained to an area “east of Drano Lake, south of the east/west portion of Cook-Underwood Road, west of the north/south portion of Cook-Underwood Road, and north of the Columbia River,” SEWAIMT said. Air assets have been deployed, utilizing both water from the Columbia River, and fire retardant.
A evacuee center was set up at the Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson, Washington, where the Red Cross is on site. Evacuees, some with horses and dogs, spent the night at the evacuee center Sunday night.
“We have a lady with a couple of horses,” said Jane Burke of Red Cross. “So we got them set up and we got some hay.”
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste authorized the mobilization of state firefighting resources under the Washington State Fire Resources Mobilization Plan at the request of the Skamania County Fire District 3 commissioner.
Multiple agencies responded Sunday, including Skamania County Fire District 3, Skamania County Fire District 1, Klickitat County Fire District 3, White Salmon Fire, Department of Natural Resources, and United States Forest Service.
Level 3 (Go Now) evacuation orders were issued for a two-mile radius around the fire Sunday and remain in place Monday. Level 1 (Get Ready) evacuations are in place for Klickitat County, east of the fire.
The sheriff’s office posted an updated evacuation map late Sunday night and said it would use its reverse 911 notification system and law enforcement for emergency notifications. Click here to sign up to receive evacuation notices and check the SCSO Facebook page for the latest updates.
Here’s what evacuation levels mean
Level 1 Notice – Be Ready: Residents should be aware of the danger that exists in their area and monitor local media outlets for information. Residents with special needs should take note and begin making arrangements to evacuate. Evacuations at this time are voluntary.
Level 2 Notice – Be Set: This level indicates there is significant danger to your area, and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or outside of the affected area, or if choosing to remain, to be ready at a moment’s notice. Emergency services cannot guarantee that they will be able to notify you if conditions rapidly deteriorate.
Level 3 Notice – Go Now: Danger to your area is current or imminent, and you should leave immediately. Listen to local media and watch for emergency personnel who may be coming by to give further instructions regarding the evacuation.
Water in Underwood possibly contaminated
The Skamania County Public Utility District #1 reported Sunday night that water from the Underwood Water System might be contaminated due to a loss of pressure in the water system.
“Even if you don’t lose water pressure, your tap water may still be contaminated,” the utility district said in a Facebook post.
Officials advise residents of Underwood to boil tap water for one minute and then letting it cool before drinking. They said residents should use boiled or purchased bottled water for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation.
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