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Cascade Locks FD responds to truck blaze and ’suspicious’ structure fire

The wheel of this tractor trailer caught fire late Tuesday morning as it pulled into ODOT’s Wyeth weigh station at MP 54 on I-84. The rear of the cab and the front of the trailer were damaged by the fire, but the driver was uninjured.

Todd Jensen
The wheel of this tractor trailer caught fire late Tuesday morning as it pulled into ODOT’s Wyeth weigh station at MP 54 on I-84. The rear of the cab and the front of the trailer were damaged by the fire, but the driver was uninjured.

Cascade Locks Fire Department had a busy Monday night and Tuesday morning this week, responding to two separate fires that occurred less than 15 hours apart.

According to Jesse Metheny, CLFD captain, firefighters for the department were first dispatched at 8:51 p.m. Monday evening to a blaze that had engulfed an abandoned house at 5 Cramblett Way, directly behind Bear Mountain Forest Products, which is located approximately two miles east of downtown Cascade Locks. Hood River Fire & EMS also responded to the blaze.

Metheny said firefighters quickly determined nobody was inside the building, which had been abandoned for an indeterminate number of years. The decision was made not to enter the structure as the fire had started in the basement and raised a “serious question of structural stability,” according to Metheny.

Firefighters worked throughout the remainder of Monday night to keep the fire under control and prevent the flames from igniting nearby trees. Shortly after midnight, firefighters extinguished the last of the fire, which had reduced the house to nothing but ashes and foundation stones.

As for how the fire started, Metheny stated Wednesday that the “cause is under investigation, but it appears it was human-caused,” and described the circumstances as “suspicious.” He added that it was unlikely the exact cause of the fire would ever be determined.

According to Metheny, the property is owned by the Port of Cascade Locks and has been marked for development. He also mentioned he had a meeting scheduled with port officials Friday to discuss the fire.

Exactly 10 hours after CLFD personnel left the scene of that blaze, they were dispatched to another. Metheny said at 11:40 a.m., a call came from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Wyeth weigh station, located at milepost 54 of Interstate 84, of an empty tractor trailer with Florida plates that had entered the weigh station with one of its wheels on fire.

At the weigh station was Russ Gilbert, who in addition to monitoring the scales for ODOT is also a volunteer firefighter with West Side Fire Department. Gilbert said after the truck had rolled into the weigh station, either the flaming tire or a component of the rig’s air suspension exploded. The blast was forceful enough to knock a radio off the window sill in Gilbert’s office, located about 8 or 9 feet away.

“I’m surprised the windows didn’t blow,” Gilbert remarked. “It was really loud.”

Gilbert quickly called 9-1-1 and attempted to contain the blaze with a fire extinguisher, but the flames soon spread to the container portion of the front of the trailer as well as the rear of the cabin and “extensively damaged” the truck.

Metheny believed either a malfunction of the truck’s brakes or air line was responsible for the fire. The driver of the truck, Craig Trotter, was uninjured.

As for Gilbert, he seemed remarkably unfazed by both the fire and the explosion and noted trucks arrive at the weigh station on fire several times every year.

“It’s just another day at the office,” he said.

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