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Fire Disrupts Interstate 84 Traffic east of The Dalles
Sergeant Julie Wilcox
Oregon State Police - The Dalles
(541) 296-9646

On June 27, 2010 at 1:52 p.m., a vehicle fire was reported on Interstate 84 westbound about three miles east of The Dalles. The fire ignited grass on both sides of the freeway causing a seven mile traffic jam on the westbound side.
MELYNDA DOWNING, age 42, from La Center, Washington was westbound at milepost 89 when she encountered engine problems with her 1988 Ford Pickup. She pulled her vehicle, which was towing a 25 foot toy hauler, to the shoulder. The pickup started on fire but DOWNING was able to escape with non-life threatening burns. Soon both the pickup and trailer were fully engulfed. The fire spread to grass on the shoulder of the freeway. A west wind of approximately 20-25 mph pushed embers across the freeway igniting grass on the south side of the road.
Both westbound and eastbound lanes were stopped due to limited visibility and possibility of explosion. Emergency responders, including law enforcement and fire fighters, were able to open one lane in each direction as conditions cleared.
Due to heavy westbound traffic and the fire, westbound motorists encountered a backup that reached seven miles at one point. Eastbound traffic was backed up for approximately two miles.
All lanes in both directions were completely opened at approximately 4:30 p.m. Fire fighters continued to battle the blaze until approximately 10:00 p.m. Grass fields and wheat fields were burned but no structures were threatened. It is unknown how many acres were burned.
Emergency responders included fire fighters from Mid Columbia Fire & Rescue, Dallesport, WA Fire Department, Odell Fire Department, Hood River Fire Department, Sherman County Fire Services, Oregon State Forestry, and Gorge Scenic Area Fire Services.
Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers and members from ODOT helped direct traffic.