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Washington state wildfire burns out of control, forcing thousands to evacuate

The Nakia Creek Fire, ignited near Vancouver, Washington, is being fueled by warmer temperatures that are rare for the rainy and damp Pacific Northwest.
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A wildfire burned out of control near the Washington-Oregon border Monday as thousands of people fled from the blaze fueled by warm conditions unusual for the Pacific Northwest.

The Nakia Creek Fire, which ignited near Vancouver, Washington, on Oct. 9, broke containment lines Sunday and has charred about 1,565 acres, officials said.

Firefighters estimated Sunday night that about 2,000 acres had burned. Authorities said Monday morning they had gotten a better aerial view of the wildfire and revised the estimate downward.

"This is a very dynamic situation and those numbers could change," the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency said in a statement. "Smoke was very heavy yesterday and even grounded aircraft fighting the fire." 

The Nakia Creek Fire burns in Washington state.
The Nakia Creek Fire burns in Washington state.Washington State DNR Wildfire

By Sunday night, residents of more than 2,900 homes had been issued a “Level 3 Go Now” notice, telling them to evacuate, the agency said.

Another 5,017 homes were under “Level 2 Be Set” notices, urging residents to be ready for evacuation, officials said.

The high temperature in Vancouver was 86 degrees Sunday, in stark contrast to a typical mid-October day, when the mercury rarely climbs above the low 60s. It was expected to cool to 68 degrees Monday.

The lower temperatures had firefighters hoping they would make progress Monday as long as people — and their drones — steer clear.

"Stay out of area if you don’t need to be there," the Clark County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. "Weather is improving and will allow more aerial firefighting opportunities, but can’t if drones are up."

A wildfire burns the Conway family farm in Camas, Wash.
The Nakia Creek Fire burns near the Conway Family Farm in Camas, Wash.Courtesy Conway Family Farm

Approaching flames forced Shaun and Lorrie Conway to quickly round up their 50 goats and sheep but abandon other possessions.

"It's just stuff," Lorrie Conway said Monday, about 20 miles away from their home. "I mean, we got the animals out and grabbed pictures and important documents and the house plans, in case we have to build it again."

With their life's work on the line, Lorrie Conway, 57, said she and her husband had to make hard choices Sunday.

"Things don't always go to plan, and you go through the motions and do what you have to do," Conway said.

Even though it is the first time Stephanie Faith Warren and her family have had to evacuate, wildfires aren't new to the region, so they've been prepared for an event like Sunday's.

They had to move eight goats, two miniature pigs, three dogs, two miniature donkeys, an African tortoise, a desert burro and a mule.

"We've had fire pretty close [in the past], so this feeling isn't strange to me," Warren, 35, said Monday in La Center, about 30 miles from her home.

"I'm a mom, I'm a farmer, and you just got to keep a level head when you're doing this stuff. If you're stressed, the animals feel it, the kids know it."