Jenny Creek Fire 90% contained; neighbors slowly return to La Center homes
LA CENTER Wash. (KPTV) - People are starting to return to their homes as firefighters confirmed the Jenny Creek Fire near La Center, Wash. was 90% contained on Thursday.
The fire, now at 32 acres, started Wednesday afternoon when a mobile home caught fire north of town and the flames spread up a hill, forcing nearby residents to flee. A pile of wood, debris, and a few small items were all that remained of the mobile home and outbuilding.
Fire crews used excavators to clear the scene on Thursday afternoon.
“It was extremely hot, at one point we had to back our apparatus out because it was going to start melting paint,” said Jason Leavitt, a battalion chief with Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue.
When the fire started, the rising smoke alerted those living nearby even before the notice to evacuate.
Madelyn Swihart lives with her husband and two young sons just a half mile from where the fire spread. When she first saw the smoke, she said it looked like it was creeping on to their property.
“I just started shaking,” she said. “I called 911, and our first thought was ‘they haven’t told us to evacuate, but pack, get the kids in the car at the last minute and go.’”
When sheriff’s office deputies came with an evacuation notice, Swihart’s family was already packed up and ready to go. They were able to stay with her in-laws in Tigard for the night, but decided to return home Thursday morning.
Other neighbors said that they decided not to evacuate at all when they saw the smoke moving away from their homes.
Leavitt said he had noticed a lot of people driving back to their homes that are still in Level 3 evacuation zones.
“We tell folks we want you to be out of here until that’s lifted, and that’s their choice at the end of the day,” he said. “We understand people have animals and things that are important to them and they want to make sure those things are protected.”
After the initial mobile home and outbuilding burned, 72 fire units were sent to stop the spread.
Swihart said she knows how lucky they were to avoid the same fate.
“We didn’t think we were going to have a home to come back to,” she said. “My heart just goes out to them, oh my goodness.”
Copyright 2023 KPTV-KPDX. All rights reserved.