Norse Peak Fire scorches nearly 20,000 acres; at least 350 structures in evacuation zones

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PIERCE COUNTY — At least 350 structures are sitting in evacuation zones of the Norse Peak fire in Pierce County.

Lightning started the wildfire on August 11, but on Monday it took a dramatic turn, affecting several resorts, cabins and homes.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire had burned nearly 20,000 acres and was only 8% contained.

As of Tuesday night fire officials say they can’t give an exact acreage because it’s too smokey to fly. They are hoping to fly infrared cameras overnight when conditions improve, to get a better scope of the size of the fire.

One of the resorts evacuated was Crystal Mountain Resort. The road leading up to the resort, Crystal Mountain Boulevard, has been closed off indefinitely. Employees Monday night took cell phone video of the fire cresting the ridge visible to everyone staying at the resort.

“The noise of the fire itself was incredibly loud,” employee Alyx Knudson said.

A Level 3 mandatory evacuation means Knudson cannot stay at work at the resort.

“Everything we could pack, threw it in the car and drove down to the bottom of the boulevard,” Knudson said.

She spent the night car camping in the parking lot of a tavern in Greenwater, about 20 miles away from the resort.

“We are all complaining about headaches, not feeling well, so the dogs are antsy about it,” Knudson said.

She escaped the flames but not the smoke. Ashes from the fires are raining down like snow across Western Washington.

Trees are barely visible through the claustrophobic blanket.

“It’s something very surreal to experience,” Crystal Mountain Resort marketing manager Tiana Anderson said.

Anderson added that dozens of guests and staff were evacuated safely on Monday. The ski resort is also a venue for weddings and one was planned for this weekend.

“We do have a wedding this weekend -- the bride, understandably, a little bit stressed out right now,” Anderson said.

Anderson is hoping the fire will move in a different direction but there's no telling when people can get back in.

Firefighters are doing everything they can to save people and property. So far no one has been hurt and no properties damaged.

“Cutting trees and doing helicopter drops of water, things like that,” firefighter Tamara Hall said.

Knudson is just hoping she has a home and a work to come back to.

“It’s definitely heart-wrenching,” Knudson said.

Although the town of Greenwater is not under evacuation, firefighters say residents should be prepared in case the Norse Peak Fire gets worse.