Truckers face major slowdowns due to wildfire closure of I-84

The Hood River County Sheriff's Office took these photos of the Eagle Creek Fire from an airplane on Sept. 12, 2017.

The truck stops in Troutdale mark the start and end of a lengthy detour for many truckers as Interstate 84 remains closed through a large segment of the Columbia River Gorge.

The interstate is currently closed in both directions between Troutdale and Hood River as Oregon Dept. of Transportation crews clear debris and hazards left behind by the Eagle Creek Fire.

“Going through the hills was very slow,” truck driver Michael Fisher said.

Usually truckers like Fisher would fill up and jump back on I-84. Truckers are now forced to head south and around Mount Hood.

“It adds to the day, long days around the hill. Lots of traffic,” trucker Herman Klein said.

With a full truck, Mt. Hood's terrain can mean a slower ride.

“You get points where the speed limit sign says 50 mph but you can only do about 20 or 25,” Fisher said.

For some trips, the detour adds anywhere from two to four extra hours of drive time, and fewer loads each week.

“Usually we get 3 to 3-and-a-half loads a week out to Boise with the cars, now we are getting 2... 2-and-a-half loads a week,” Klein said.

Klein has been driving trucks for more than 30 years and says he's learned to be prepared for anything.

Fewer loads means less money for drivers.

“We just do the best we can to get the customers their stuff, and make our money, and get through it,” Klein said.

ODOT spokesperson Don Hamilton said they are working with WashDOT to make sure everyone up-to-date on the progress along I-84.

“Any time you close an interstate highway it is going to cause a tremendous amount of disruptions,” said Hamilton. “It’s no secret to anyone in Skamania County about the difficulties of the fire. We’ve got Interstate 84 closed, and that’s certainly a hardship."

These truckers tell KATU News they are trying to keep a good attitude about everything, but say they hope I-84 opens up sooner than later. And Klein says, he’s even willing to help.

“Yeah I'm willing to go get my chainsaw and help,” Klein said.

At this point the Oregon Department of Transportation does not have a firm timeline for when I-84 will reopen.

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