Raging wildfire in Washington threatens homes and residents

 Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Firefighters in southwestern Washington were working on Tuesday to extinguish a wildfire that has destroyed 10 homes and burned more than 530 acres since it broke out on Sunday, the authorities said.

The fire was only 5 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, two days after it was first reported near Underwood, a small town in Skamania County, Wash., near the state’s border with Oregon.

Hot, windy conditions on Sunday helped fuel the fire’s spread through a hillside community overlooking State Route 14 and the Columbia River, which divides Washington and Oregon, fire officials said.

By Monday morning, officials had issued evacuation orders for people within a two-mile radius of the fire, which has been named the Tunnel Five Fire.

There were no reports of injuries or missing people in connection with the fire as of Tuesday morning, officials.

The National Weather Service in Portland warned of potential wildfire conditions through Wednesday night in a region encompassing parts of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest northwest of the Tunnel Five Fire.

Officials are investigating the cause of the fire.

Last year, Washington State, like California, had a relatively quiet wildfire season compared to record-setting seasons in 2020 and 2021, a news agency reported.

But officials feared persistent dry weather conditions this year could lead to a busier fire season, which 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 across Oregon and Washington.

An emergency shelter for evacuees was set up at the county fairgrounds, officials said, and residents in a neighboring county to the east of the fire were advised to prepare for potential evacuations.

The authorities mobilized five crews, 31 fire engines and a total of 189 emergency workers, along with multiple aircraft.

Firefighting aircraft were scooping water from the nearby river to help put out the flames, the authorities said.

More help was expected on Tuesday, including heavy equipment and additional fire engines, the authorities said.

The nearest major population center is White Salmon, a city about two miles east of the Tunnel Five Fire, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

Roughly 2,500 people live there, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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