Help arrives to battle wildfire near Columbia River Gorge
Jul 5, 2023, 12:04 PM | Updated: 12:12 pm
Authorities have more than doubled the number of people battling a wildfire that has burned structures and forced the evacuation of homes in southwestern Washington near the Columbia River Gorge.
The blaze that began Sunday in the unincorporated area of Underwood across from Hood River, Oregon, had burned about 546 acres (221 hectares) and was 5% contained as of Wednesday, according to a post on an interagency Facebook page backed by the state Department of Natural Resources.
Nearly 375 people are fighting the fire, with more on the way including an elite firefighting crew to work in challenging terrain on the fire’s western edge, according to the post.
The National Weather Service’s red flag warning remained for the area through 11 p.m. Wednesday, with hot, dry and unstable conditions that could cause the fire to spread rapidly.
Fire activity increased Tuesday afternoon on the western edge of the fire, with helicopters and air tankers helping keep the blaze in check, officials said. Fire engine crews patrolled again overnight and tamed hot spots around the fire’s perimeter.
Evacuations remained in place Wednesday for an area affecting about 1,000 people, officials previously said. The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday that several structures had been lost, but it didn’t release further details.
State Route 14 remained closed Wednesday between mile markers 56 to 65 because of fire activity. Smoke and firefighting aircraft are visible from Interstate 84 on the Oregon side of the river, officials said.
The fire’s cause remains under investigation.
A separate brush fire that started Tuesday afternoon was also threatening homes and prompting evacuations near the western Washington city of Shelton. More than 200 homes were under evacuation notices and a shelter was set up at a Shelton middle school. It was not immediately known what caused the fire.
State fire assistance has been mobilized to work to contain it. A strike team, air resources and State Fire Marshall’s Office personnel were responding.