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Tunnel 5 Fire now 80% contained

Despite difficult terrain, hundreds of fire crews worked quickly to knock down the flames this week. Now, they're mopping up and securing containment lines.

UNDERWOOD, Wash. — Evacuation areas around the Tunnel 5 fire were all reduced to Level 1 (Be Ready) as of Saturday morning, according to the Skamania County Sheriff's Office. 

Fire officials upgraded the fire to 80% contained Monday morning. It has burned 529 acres. A total of 485 fire personnel are working on the blaze.

The wildfire has been burning since Sunday. The fire continued to burn through Friday, however the situation appeared much different than a few days ago.  

By Friday afternoon, fire crews mopped up and secured containment lines on the ground, with more resources on standby should hotspots pop up. 

As of Friday evening, officials reported around 450 personnel working to fight the fire in different capacities. They told KGW that within the next several days the operation will likely scale down, should conditions hold through the weekend. 

The Skamania County Sheriff's Office lowered evacuations levels from Level 3 (Go Now) to Level 2 (Be Set) for everyone in the area Friday morning.

RELATED: All Tunnel 5 Fire evacuation areas down to Level 1 as of Saturday morning

During the worst of it, under the Level 3 orders, many packed up and left.

"I'd say half of Underwood was evacuated," said Philip Jones. 

Jones, the owner of South Hill Winery, perched high above the flames in Skamania County, stayed behind. 

"We were watching [the fire on Sunday], and it was about two hours later a firetruck pulled up and said, 'hey, you know there's an evacuation order?" he recalled. "I said, look, I know the winds here. I'm watching this. He said, 'yeah, you're probably safe."

Located further up the mountain, Jones pointed out what he saw. 

"Right where Mt. Hood is, there's where it all started and came up," he said about the start of the Tunnel 5 fire. "It was fairly confined, and then it just started spreading."

Throughout the week, there was a greater danger down the ridge. Fire officials confirmed the blaze threatened around 250 homes, destroying 10 of them. Drivers back on the newly reopened Cook-Underwood road could clearly see the fire damage Friday afternoon, along with where planes dropped fire retardant on the burnt trees below. 

Mark Johnson, a fire information officer assigned to the Tunnel 5 fire explained the focus for the weekend.

"The winds are a concern for us, and it could certainly test our containment lines — but it's also a good test of our containment lines, to let us know that they are secure," he said. "Probably won't see the fire activity that was happening earlier in the week when this thing was running and gunning and growing."

For those local fire teams, tasked with keeping watch long term, Jones decided to pay it forward. All sales from next Saturday will go directly to Underwood firefighters.

"We just want to show our appreciation. I was thinking this morning, oh you could give part of your wine sales to them," he said. "I said no, no, no. Just give the whole day's receipts to them."

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