Thousands of southwest Washington residents were issued evacuation orders Sunday, some with rapid escalations and little time to prepare after the Nakia Creek Fire exploded in size – growing from 150 to 2,000 acres in just a day.
Among them — Lindsay Hansen and her husband, who run the Woof & Tumble dog-boarding business from their home in Washougal. She described how quickly the situation became an emergency on what appeared at first to be a normal day.
“I was out in the yard playing with the dogs actually, and I looked up and I noticed that there was quite a bit of smoke,” she said.
She said shortly thereafter, she received text messages from a neighbor warning her about the fire, and an hour later — an immediate jump to a Level 2 “Be Set” evacuation order for her area.
Meanwhile, the fire was growing at a rate of hundreds of acres per hour.
“I’m not even sure what even happened with Level 1,” Hansen said. “We just kind of skipped right past that into Level 2.”
Normally, a second-level advisory would not necessarily mean residents have to leave. But Hansen said because of all the coordination needed with multiple dogs, contacting multiple owners, and arranging a mode of transport for the animals, she had already planned to go as soon as any Level 2 was issued.
The decision was nearly prescient, as fire officials later said they had trouble accurately judging the size of the fire due to a heavy amount of smoke clouding the perimeter.
“Within about half an hour of knowing that we were on Level 2, we got emergency notifications that we were on Level 3,” she said.
Hansen called on a friend, who she had jokingly contacted earlier in the day about an old agreement to house the dogs if an emergency broke out. They agreed to shelter the dogs in a garage and backyard, she said.
While her husband ran inside to gather the family’s valuables and vital documents, she readied the pups and put them on a mode of transport to her friend’s house, about an hour’s drive away.
“I think it would have been complete panic and chaos if there wasn’t a plan in place,” Hansen said, expressing relief that she had prepared for a moment like this after having previously dealt with the Eagle Creek Fire.
This, however, was the first time she said her family has had to evacuate from a wildfire.
Hansen told KIRO Newsradio the fire never reached her home and the evacuation orders were shocking because they were issued before any danger was evident.
“It was wild, too, because we were evacuating and there was no smoke in our house,” she said.
By Monday morning, evacuations for her property were lifted and she returned home with hesitation. Hansen said she was still on edge that the situation could escalate again, just as fast as it did Sunday.
“I wasn’t too quick to run back,” she said. “Because I just wanted to make sure – I don’t want to have to transport these dogs back and then have to turn around and come back.”
Some of the dogs have been picked up by their owners, while others were out of the country, she said. Everyone – two legs or four – is safe, but Hansen was surprised at how quickly the situation changed.
“You just have to think of every scenario that you possibly can think of,” she said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire is still burning just north several miles north of Camas at about 1,800 acres. It is 5% contained, and thousands are still under evacuation orders.