Archer Mountain fire fully-contained, evacuations lifted

The Archer Mountain Fire is burning on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. (SBG photo)

SKAMANIA COUNTY, Wash. – The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office has lifted all evacuation notices that were in place from the Archer Mountain Fire.

On Wednesday morning, fire officials declared the fire 100 percent contained after burning a total of 260 acres. Even though the fire is contained, that does not mean the fire is completely under control or out.

The management team handling the Eagle Creek Fire will take control over the Archer Mountain Fire on Friday morning. Firefighters will still be assigned to Archer Mountain to make sure the fire does not escape containment lines. Until there is a large shift in weather conditions, you may still notice smoke or flames from the fire.

The wildfire started on Sept. 5. It was ignited by embers that crossed the Columbia River from the Eagle Creek Fire. It is burning around Archer Mountain, about 10 miles northwest of North Bonneville, Washington.

Officials said the fire burned mature timber and forest brush in rocky and steep terrain.

Several residents around the fire evacuated their homes early Tuesday. Those living on Archer Mountain Road were under Level 3 evacuation notices, including Klaus and Judy Siemieniec.

Klaus says they were watching the news Monday night about the Eagle Creek Fire and wondered if it would jump across the river. The retired couple packed their stuff just in case. Three hours later Skamania County sheriff's deputies came knocking on the door.

"We were half asleep. Judy my wife said, 'Is there a fire here?' The deputy put it bluntly. He said, 'Lady, look out your back window.' We ran to the back window and there was a fire right up there on the mountain," said Klaus.

The Siemieniecs lived on their property next to Archer Mountain for nearly 40 years. They moved there for the view, but Tuesday morning, at about 3 a.m., their view was a mountain on fire.

The couple took their animals and left town for nearly two days, staying with friends. They returned to find dozens of firefighters, trucks, even a helicopter. It had become a staging area. While the Siemieniecs kept their vehicle packed and ready to go at a moment's notice, they felt safer at home knowing firefighters were within earshot.

"When the first containment came in at 5 percent, we were the 5 percent," said Klaus.

Now that the fire is fully contained, Judy can barely believe it, especially considering there is still smoke coming from parts of the mountain.

"The crews are getting smaller, and there are less trucks, there is less activity, so we know it's winding down, we know it's getting better. You sort of have to think, 'OK, I guess it's ending,'" said Judy.

Klaus is happy to begin unpacking, and returning to normal life again.

"People have to be careful when they come through here, that's been my worry the past few years. I've been thinking more and more about it. All we need is someone to be careless with a cigarette, or whatever it may be, and it did," said Klaus.

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