PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Officials with the Oregon Department of Transportation said Thursday they hope to have the eastbound lanes of I-84 open between Troutdale and Hood River by this weekend or early next week.
That stretch of I-84 has been closed since the Eagle Creek Fire erupted September 2. The westbound lanes re-opened September 14, closed briefly 2 days later and have been open since. But the eastbound side has been closed to traffic for weeks.
So far, more than 4000 trees had to be cut down along I-84 after the fire. ODOT officials said those trees will be mulched and used for trail restorations. ODOT said it needed to use the closed areas of I-84 eastbound, near Ainsworth Park, to place the hazardous trees they removed.
“They’re doing the final cleanup, taking out the last few snags,” said Tom Braibish, a geotechincal engineer at ODOT.
U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Rachel Pawlitz said that people, when it comes to the damage from the Eagle Creek Fire, need to have perspective. Not all is lost, she said.
“There’s going to be a natural restoration process,” Pawlitz said. There are seeds in the soil. They’ll begin to grow. The Trees will replace themselves. Some of the trees will look dead (but) won’t be dead when the spring comes.”
The Toothrock area was one of the areas that was hit hard from the fire. Power-lines were down and steep slopes were burned.
In regard to landslides, ODOT said the affected areas are more vulnerable after the fire. They said to expect an active winter.
The forest service also said, in regard to reopening trails and the Historic Columbia River Highway, that the earliest estimate is spring.
As of 1 p.m. Thursday, the Eagle Creek Fire has burned nearly 49,000 acres and is 46% contained.
Here are videos and images from KOIN 6’s tour through the Columbia River Gorge and areas affected by the Eagle Creek Fire.