Fire chars grass next to freeway exit 63

Wednesday’s wildfire was freeway-close.

Hood River firefighters responded to a blaze at exit 63 to Interstate 84 that charred a 100-foot triangular area of grass and an ODOT-owned sign, just across the freeway at the Second Street overpass.

The cause is unknown, but HRFD Lt. Paul Henke said there reports from bystanders that “there was possibly someone towing a trailer with something hanging that may have sent sparks from the roadway onto the grass.

“Those are so hard (to know the cause) when they’re on side of the road,” Henke said. “We didn’t see any evidence of a fire being intentionally set.”

The five-man HRFD duty crew spent about an hour at the scene.

While the fire turned out to be small, Henke said the public “should be mindful the conditions are right for a large-scale event in the Gorge. Big fires can start small.

“We have had no recent fires around the region, but conditions are certainly there; it’s so dry — and even with the one on freeway, our first concern was the wind, which was whipping down and it doesn’t take much to turn a grass fire on the side of the road into an event.”

A burn ban is in place in all counties of eastern Oregon, meaning no permits are being issued and no outside burning is allowed except for designated campfire pits.

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