ODOT: I-84 will remain closed at least through the weekend due t - KPTV - FOX 12

ODOT: I-84 will remain closed at least through the weekend due to Eagle Creek Fire

Posted: Updated: Sep 07, 2017 08:52 PM
Image: KPTV Image: KPTV

The Eagle Creek Fire is now the top firefighting priority in the nation.

But as it continues to burn, the Oregon Department of Transportation says Interstate 84 will remain closed between Troutdale and Hood River at least through the weekend. In fact, the closure could last much longer.

For the most part, the fire line right along the freeway is now out, although firefighters are continuing to monitor hot spots and smoldering trees.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Hood River County Fire Defense Chief Jim Trammell told FOX 12. “If we get sunny weather and west winds, it could still push the fire.”

That’s the biggest concern.

But before ODOT can reopen I-84, there are other problems to consider, including falling rocks and hazardous trees that could come down across the lanes of traffic.

“If they’re burned enough, they’ll die. They’re going to fall,” ODOT’s Dave Thompson said of the trees. “So we are literally out here having to assess each of the individual trees that would fall into the roadway to determine if we need to cut them.”

ODOT estimates there are roughly 2,000 such trees that will need to come down before I-84 can reopen along a stretch of burned earth lasting several miles.

On a media tour Thursday, Thompson showed reporters one of the rocks that tumbled down from the hillside onto the freeway next to the Tooth Rock Tunnel.

According to ODOT, inspectors said the tunnel itself – which opened in 1936 – survived the fire, but the area all around it burned, leaving tree snags and the potential for falling material from the hillside.

In a video posted to Twitter by Oregon State Police, a trooper is seen navigating around a boulder nearly the size of the car on the Eagle Creek Loop.

ODOT crews are already working to assess the hazards that need to be cleared, and expect that process to take several days.

The westbound lanes of traffic on I-84 will open before the eastbound lanes, since that’s the side of the freeway farthest from the fire line and potential dangers.

Once I-84 is back open, ODOT will focus on clearing the Historic Columbia River Highway that runs next to it.

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