‘Wondering if we’re going to have a home’: Lewiston woman comes close to losing house in wildfire

LEWISTON, Idaho – Wildfires are a terrifying sight to see, and Nez Perce County homeowner Joy Nye came close to losing her home Sunday night.

The Express Fire started around 11 p.m. just east of Lewiston along the Clearwater River and Highway 95. Authorities evacuated people from the Clearwater River Casino, a nearby gas station and RV park, as well as homes.

“It was pretty scary,” Nye said. “Lots of light. It looked like daylight, really crazy. It really looked like it was morning for a while there.”

The fire went up to Nye’s pasture, which was close to her home of two decades.

Police woke Nye and her family around 1:30 a.m., telling them they needed to leave quickly. They packed up their cars with their pets and went to the highway, watching the flames from the side of the road.

“[I was] in the car with animals crying and kids upset, [and] wondering if we’re going to have a home,” she said.

The flames moved fast. Fire management officer Jeff Handel, of the Nez Perce Tribe, said flames grew as high as 10 to 15 feet. They fought the fire against 35 mph winds.

Handel said the fire grew 200 acres in just 30 minutes, pushing them to work faster on the fire that went toward buildings and homes.

“You just look up at the hillside, you see all those power poles there. We’ve got the casino, we’ve got homes, we’ve got the river, the highway. A lot of valuable resources are threatened here with this,” Handel said. “We really need to stop this fire as fast as we can.”

As of Monday mid-afternoon, the fire grew to 2,000 acres or 3.125 square miles. Fire authorities called in single-engine air tankers, regular air tankers as well as five helicopters to help keep the fire from spreading.

A Nez Perce Tribe spokesperson said the fire did not burn any homes or injured anyone. It did burn some outbuildings.

Fire crews lifted evacuations around 5 a.m., allowing Nye and her family to breathe a sigh of relief. But now, they have a reminder of just how close they came to losing their home, seeing the fire burn scars right past their home.

“It was terrifying, really,” she said.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Outbuildings burned in Express Fire near Lewiston, evacuations lifted

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