By Roger Harnack
OMAK - Residents southeast of Omak Lake are under evacuation notices today after flames from the St. Mary's fire rounded the lake and jumped Columbia River Road.
Fire officials said Wednesday morning that the Kartar and Duley Lake areas are now under Level 2 notices.
The designation means residents should be packing important belongings and preparing to leave.
The fire exploded overnight to more than 1,000 acres after igniting near the intersection of state Highway 155 and North Omak Lake Road, about 6 miles outside the city.
Driven by 40 mph winds, the blaze roared down the North Omak Lake Road valley, threatening Paschal Sherman Indian School and St. Mary's Mission.
At least one home burned, as well as a couple barns and some outbuildings, unofficial fire reports said. Authorities have not identified whose home was destroyed.
As the fire grew, Paschal Sherman students - who live in dorms on the campus - were evacuated to the Omak Inn, where they spent the night.
Volunteers were organizing a donation drive this morning to help students who did not have time to grab the things they may have needed before being bused into Omak.
This morning, school officials announced that classes have been canceled for the rest of the week.
The fire also prompted the immediate Level 3 fire evacuation designation for residents in the Mission Road and North Omak Lake Road areas.
The Level 3 designation means fire is imminent and residents should leave.
As the flames consumed the shrub-steppe, fire officials issued a Level 2 designation for the Haley Creek area and Level 1 designation for other nearby areas, including Duley Lake and Timentwa Flats.
Columbia River Road was closed to traffic late Tuesday night as smoke limited visibility and ash began to fall.
Fire officials have called in at least two helicopters to drop water on the flames, which were visible overnight from Omak, Okanogan and the Kartar areas.