North Clark County residents on alert as wildfire threatens to move their way

Parts of Chelatchie Prairie were on a level 2 evacuation notice, with Amboy and Yacolt in level 1

CHELATCHIE — UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect new information on the size of the Big Hollow fire. Overall size has been downgraded from 22,000 acres to an estimated 12,050 acres as of Thursday at 10 a.m., per the US Forest Service.

Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials placed parts of Northeast Clark County on either level 1 (be on alert) or level 2 (get ready) evacuation notices Wednesday as sparks from the Big Hollow wildfire could spread east, possibly even jumping the reservoir and spreading into Cougar or Yale.

A road closed sign greets travelers on Healy Road outside of Chelatchie Prairie due to the Big Hollow wildfire in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Photo by Mike Schultz
A road closed sign greets travelers on Healy Road outside of Chelatchie Prairie due to the Big Hollow wildfire in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Photo by Mike Schultz

The fire was first reported Tuesday morning, and had grown to approximately 22,000 acres by Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, that estimate was downgraded to just over 12,000 acres according to the US Forest Service incident commander.

On Wednesday afternoon areas north of Chelatchie Prairie up to the Cowlitz and Skamania county lines were placed on a level 2 evacuation notice, meaning people are being encouraged to pack their belongings and be ready to go. 

Areas south of Chelatchie including Amboy and north Yacolt were put on level 1, meaning they should be alert to any further information.

That has not changed since Thursday morning, although CRESA officials confirmed that the fire has not yet made its way into Clark County.

LIVE: Sky8 flying over Big Hollow Fire in Clark County, Washington

Sky8 is flying this morning over the Big Hollow Fire outside Cougar, Washington.

Posted by KGW-TV on Thursday, September 10, 2020

Battle Ground Public Schools announced on Wednesday evening that Yacolt Primary and Amboy Middle School would be closed Thursday, Sept. 10 due to the threat, and lunch services would be unavailable.

Smoke from wildfires in Oregon made for a red sunset in Battle Ground on Wednesday. Photo by Chris Brown
Smoke from wildfires in Oregon made for a red sunset in Battle Ground on Wednesday. Photo by Chris Brown

On Wednesday afternoon, Gifford Pinchot National Forest officials announced they were closing most of the southwestern portion of the forest and urging people to evacuate the area due to the extreme fire danger.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Wednesday announced it was closing most of its land in Eastern Washington to public access, including popular spots such as the Twin Lakes, Coffeepot Lake, Lakeview Ranch, and Pacific Lake Recreation Areas.

BLM also closed access to all developed campgrounds in Northwest Oregon, and banned any open fires in most other areas around the state. 

Oregon Dept. of Forestry also announced the closure of all state-managed forests to public use due to the ongoing fires and risk of new ones.

Smoke from the Big Hollow fire continued to pour into areas of north Clark County and south Cowlitz County, creating an eerie scene. It was added to on Wednesday evening as smoke from fires raging in Oregon was pushed northward by shifting winds.

Washington DNR has closed roads leading out of Chelatchie Prairie due to the Big Hollow fire burning east of Yale Reservoir in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Photo by Mike Schultz
Washington DNR has closed roads leading out of Chelatchie Prairie due to the Big Hollow fire burning east of Yale Reservoir in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Photo by Mike Schultz

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Portland said winds should die down overnight, and remain relatively calm on Thursday, though hot conditions are expected to continue through at least Saturday. 

Showers are expected to move into the area early next week, bringing some much needed relief to fire crews who have been stretched to capacity throughout the region.

Hot and breezy conditions have kept fire crews busy all over Clark County. Vancouver fire crews responded to dozens of small fires on Wednesday, including one just west of Livingston Mountain Quarry, and another along SR-14 near 164th Avenue.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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