As of Wednesday, August 15, 2012
The traffic gods were conspiring to not let anyone get out of Hood River Friday on Interstate 84.
By mid-afternoon backup more than five miles long had formed on the freeway with slow-moving eastbound cars stretching west from about milepost 75 past the Mosier exit.
Oregon State Police cited the construction zone in the area — which limits traffic in both directions to one lane — as the case of the backup.
While traffic was severely backed-up in the eastbound lanes, a smaller backup formed in the same area in the westbound lanes.
While the backup near Mosier may have been shorter, westbound motorists had any reason to gloat swiped away a short time later.
Around 5:30 p.m. a car fire at milepost 54 brought traffic in the westbound lanes to a complete standstill in a backup which nearly reached Hood River.
A pickup truck was being pulled behind a tow truck by its rear wheels when it overheated and caught fire. It quickly separated from the tow truck and came to rest on the freeway, blocking both lanes of traffic.
At the same time the fire caused a small brush fire between the freeway and railroad tracks.
Cascade Locks Fire was first on the scene, having pulled off at Wyeth and driven the last few miles the wrong way on the freeway to get the fire and avoid being caught in traffic.
Their requested support from Oregon Department of Forestry and West Side Fire was not as fortunate and had to drive along the shoulder to reach the scene.
The small brush fire was promptly knocked down, and Cascade Locks Fire and EMS Lt. Jesse Metheny said the fact that the fire was on the north side of the freeway likely saved fire crews a long night’s work knocking down a more involved wildfire.
“(The fire spreading) was the first thing that comes to our mind…if that had been on the south side of the freeway it could have been much worse,” Metheny said.
Metheny estimated that fire crews spent about an hour and half on the freeway putting out the car fire, knocking down the 125-yard-long brush fire and cleaning up the mess.
In addition to the three fire agencies, OSP also responded to the scene to help direct traffic, which began flowing through one lane about 6:15 p.m.
Making life even more difficult was that at the same time of the I-84 backups, portions of Highway 14 near on the Washington side, were restricted to one lane following several grass fires Thursday night.
With construction in progress not only on I-84, but also on other main roads such as Highway 35 continuing through the summer, OSP urges drivers to be cautious and patient when passing through construction zones.