Underwood, Wash. — The Tunnel Five Fire, a wildfire burning in timber and brush near Underwood in southeast Skamania County, Washington, grew to 533 acres overnight and destroyed several structures, according to the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office.
Level 3 (Go Now) evacuation orders remain in place within a two-mile radius around the fire, as stated by fire officials. The fire, which started on Sunday at around 11:20 a.m., is threatening about 100 structures and its origin is currently under investigation.
The fire, fueled by extreme terrain and hot, windy conditions, is burning across the Columbia River from Hood River, Oregon. On Sunday night, the fire remained mostly within the perimeter set by firefighters but experienced moderate growth on the west side, as reported by the Southeast Washington Incident Management Team 1 (SEWAIMT).
Fire crews from multiple agencies are working to contain the fire in a specific area defined as “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,” according to SEWAIMT. Air assets are being deployed, utilizing water from the Columbia River and fire retardant.
An evacuee center has been established at the Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson, Washington, where the Red Cross is providing assistance. Evacuees, including those with horses and dogs, spent the night at the center on Sunday.
The Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste has authorized the mobilization of state firefighting resources in response to a request from the Skamania County Fire District 3 commissioner. Various agencies, including local fire districts, the Department of Natural Resources, and the United States Forest Service, have responded to the fire.
Additionally, the Skamania County Public Utility District #1 has reported a possible contamination of water from the Underwood Water System due to a loss of pressure. Residents of Underwood are advised to boil tap water for one minute before drinking or to use boiled or purchased bottled water for various purposes, including making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation.
Evacuation orders are categorized into different levels. Level 3 (Go Now) evacuation orders are in effect within a two-mile radius around the fire, while Level 1 (Get Ready) evacuations are in place for Klickitat County, east of the fire. State Route 14 is closed between Drano and Underwood.
The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office has shared an evacuation map and is utilizing its reverse 911 notification system and law enforcement for emergency notifications. Residents can sign up to receive evacuation notices and check the SCSO Facebook page for updates.
It is important to understand the meanings of evacuation levels:
- Level 1 Notice (Be Ready): Residents should be aware of the danger in their area and monitor local media outlets for information. Evacuations at this stage are voluntary.
- Level 2 Notice (Be Set): This indicates significant danger to the area, and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or outside the affected area, or be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Emergency services cannot guarantee notification if conditions worsen rapidly.
- Level 3 Notice (Go Now): Danger to the area is current or imminent, and immediate evacuation is advised. Residents should listen to local media and watch for emergency personnel for further instructions regarding the evacuation.