Thousands of burned trees line closed I-84 in Oregon

KGW's Pat Dooris got to see the damage left behind by the Eagle Creek Fire along Interstate 84.

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. -- Oregon’s Department of Transportation says Interstate 84 will be closed at least through the weekend between Troutdale and Hood River.

The interstate is not littered with trees and boulders, at least not the stretch from Troutdale to Cascade Locks.

Along the side of the road, there is nothing left to hold the soil or rocks that could roll down into the road.

"Looking at the landscape…if we’re looking at a section of rock—rock scalers will come in and knock off whats gonna fall anyway. They’ll knock that off as soon as they can and we’ll clean that up before we open up the eastbound lanes," said Dave Thompson with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Tree fallers will also take care of the all the dangerous trees they can find—and there are plenty.

Some of the dangers along I-84 are obvious. Some trees are sticking out over the road. Up the hill, its not as obvious but probably just as dangerous. A stump that is standing up but mostly not there. A strong wind may knock that down and bring it down onto your car.

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ODOT said they are waiting for approval from the forest service and fire bosses to move in to the area and begin their work. The fire was still too dangerous and unpredictable.

Hood River County fire defense chief said when the fire broke out, the ground was too steep and the fire too dangerous for crews to directly attack it.

Some of the trees are burning with explosive power.

"Basically, mother nature tries to protect itself in times when there’s no rain," Trammell said. "I was saying these pine trees, to protect themselves, they replace the water content in the summer by pitch. Which is turpines. Like I explained, turpentine, which is a flammable liquid, is distilled from pitch from pine tries. So when people say it burnt like there was gasoline in the tree, in essence there is. The turpines help protect the tree during the summer time yet they are highly flammable.”

Its unclear what exactly happens next. Crews used three days of good weather to build fire breaks around Cascade Locks, and between the eastern edge of the fire and the Hood River Canyon.

But heavy smoke grounded aircraft for most of those days, which slowed the effort to stop the flames.

Early Thursday, the smoke lifted enough for Sky 8 to get an aerial view of the burned area.

Watch: Sky 8 shows damage from Eagle Creek Fire

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A shot that stood out was the Angel's Rest Trail. What was once a challenging path through a rugged forest, is now a trail past black sticks.

However, the very top of the trail, from Angel's Rest, looks undamaged.

Further up to the south, there are some green trees and others turned brown from the flames. 

And even though it appears the immediate danger has passed, crews were at the lodge at Multnomah Falls to make sure it was protected.

Parts of the gorge have burned, but it's true, below the smoke there are still lots of green trees.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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