Forest fires have caused mandatory evacuations near the Colville Indian Reservation, with residents now returning home

An evacuation order was issued for the town of Nespelem on the Colville Indian Reservation on Tuesday as fire crews tackle aggressive wildfires in Okanagan County.

“It looked like lava, I mean it was scary. We had a fire last year, but it was nothing like what it was here and it happened so fast. say within 10 to 15 minutes the winds were crazy, ”said Faith Zacherle of the nonprofit River Warrior Society.

A spokesperson for the Confederate Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation said 11,000 acres burned Tuesday night. Containment remained at zero with critical weather conditions for the fires expected on Wednesday.

The state’s Natural Resources Department said there had been power outages in the area and phone lines were down.

Nespelem, Buffalo Lake, Cache Creek and surrounding areas were all subject to mandatory evacuation notices, according to Okanogan County Emergency Management. State Route 155 was open for people to exit. Authorities don’t want people waiting for door-to-door notifications, KXLY-TV reported.

As of Tuesday morning, seven structures, including three houses, were lost. Seven addictions were also lost, KXLY-TV reported. There is no estimate of the number of hectares burned by the fires, which could have been caused by lightning strikes in the region on Monday evening.

A shelter is being set up by the Red Cross at the gymnasium of the primary school of Grand Coulee.

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Additionally, the state Department of Transportation reminds drivers that SR 20 west of Winthrop remains closed due to fire and that there is no estimate for reopening.

“To be clear: there is no way around the closure. It is closed for security reasons. There is no access. Please stay away from the point of closure,” wrote Tuesday the department on Twitter in response to people showing up hoping to get a way to get by.

The highway, which is popular with tourists during the summer months, will likely remain closed over the weekend as dry and gusty winds are expected in the area on Wednesday and Thursday.

And in the southeast, where the state’s largest fire is burning, nearly 700 firefighters continue to fight the Lick Creek blaze in Asotin County. As of Tuesday morning, 58,000 acres had been burned and the blaze 20% contained.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Nohemi M. Moore