ODOT: Still no estimate for I-84 reopening due to Eagle Creek Fi - KPTV - FOX 12

ODOT: Still no estimate for I-84 reopening due to Eagle Creek Fire

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COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, OR (KPTV) -

The big question still looming in the aftermath of the Eagle Creek Fire: When will I-84 reopen between Troutdale and Hood River?

Unfortunately, it’s a question the Oregon Department of Transportation can’t yet answer.

The top priority is getting the westbound lanes of traffic back open, and at a press conference Thursday morning a spokesperson for ODOT said they hoped to do that “soon,” however renewed fire activity on the east end of the wildfire continues preventing that from happening.

Crews have already removed more than 3,000 trees that burned in the fire and were at risk of falling onto the roadway. ODOT estimates there are 500 or more still left to take out.

On top of that, crews are also working to remove hazardous rocks that were loosened in the fire.

A team of contractors was working to break apart large rocks and boulders near the Tooth Rock Tunnel Thursday afternoon, where the fire burned through the trees and scorched the hillside.

“The fire kind of goes through and burns the moss, fluffs those rocks up and loosens them all and then they start falling on the highway,” said Ted Miller, the ODOT Maintenance and Operations Manager for the Portland region. “We really want to make sure those rocks don’t come down on the highway when somebody’s going by, that’s the most important part.”

At Multnomah Falls, the only visitors these days are firefighters still working to keep an eye on the historic lodge.

The fire came within 60 feet of the building last week, as crews sprayed the lodge down with water from a nearby creek.

It worked.

“And that [60 feet] that doesn’t count the embers that were probably coming at this thing when the fire was on the side of the mountain,” said Kent Nelson, a fire information officer for the Eagle Creek Fire.”

On the path toward the falls, there’s now a line of red tape marking off the area to anyone trying to get closer.

“There’s trees at the top that have been coming down unexpectedly,” Nelson added. “A lot of times as the trains go by the vibration is causing trees to break loose and rocks and stuff.”

Looking ahead long-term, ODOT warns drivers to expect intermittent closures of I-84 this fall and winter, as the rainy season may only make the already fire-ravaged and unstable hillsides even worse.

As Miller put it: There is a “high degree of concern for debris flow” in the future.

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