Fire Alarm

Summer is fire season west of the Mississippi, and as flames sweep up and down hills and mountain-sides, roads open and close. Through it all, TrafficCast International’s team of traffic data editors deliver up-to-the-minute information about roads traveled by millions across the affected areas. 

Nature is beautiful and brutal and endlessly fascinating. In Oregon, at the Silver Falls State Park about 20 miles southeast of Salem, firefighters have been able to encircle and thus control the spread of the 27 acres of the Silver Creek Fire. Night crews used infra-red cameras to help identify hot spots. The heavily forested area is located away from major roads, although state highway 38, which was closed for days, is reopened. While some trails remained closed, waterfall areas are open to visitors during park hours. This fire was thought to have been started by lightning; there have been no injuries or fatalities.

Also in Oregon, the Substation Fire flared up around The Dalles, roaring through 109 miles and closing state highway 206 and US 97.  Roads were reopened and the fire was 82% contained by July 22. Evacuations have been lowered to level one.

Some fires limit visibility or even close interstate highways. In Colorado, I-70 near mountain passes closed periodically due fires that flared up and then subsided. During the past two weeks, drivers on CO-82 near Basalt, have been warned of poor visibility, but the highway has remained opened. Downstate, by Telluride, US-550 is opened to alternating lanes of traffic after having been closed in June. Now the problem is landslides, due at least in part to loss of vegetation from wildfires.  

The Klamathon Fire, in northern California and southern Oregon, which had closed Interstate 5 for a time, is 96% contained.

In Southern California, The Valley Fire which started on July 6th is 29% contained, and while more than 100 fire personnel plus 5 engines, 3 helicopters and 3 water tenders remain assigned to battle and contain the fire, no homes or structures have been damaged. Eleven state and local agencies contribute fire control support, including CALFIRE, San Bernardino Animal Control  and the American Red Cross.

The Grant Fire which threatened the Altamont Pass east of San Francisco was started by two teenagers with fireworks. The teens remorsefully turned themselves in to the Manteca Police Department; one is being charged with negligence. The fire lasted less than 24 hours, but shut down I-580 through the Altamont Pass in both directions for several hours while it blazed.

These incidences provide only a snapshot of what firefighters and law enforcement officers in Western states are facing in summer, 2018 as they coordinate evacuations and road closures. There are many days of summer and hot weather ahead. Through it all, TrafficCast’s traffic operations department provides up to the minute records on road and highway closings and openings. These records help the public know if and when they can use public roads and return to their homes as fires rage and subside.

by Susan McKinney

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