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Fire closes Highway 730, truck pile-up causes more delays

JUNIPER CANYON, Oregon — A fire has burned over 5,000 acres in Juniper Canyon near Highway 730 and has caused an intermittent closure of Highway 730. The fire is zero percent contained as of this morning.

Juniper Canyon Fire. Photo via Echo FD.

“This is an area referred to as no man’s land since it is not within any fire protection districts,” according to a release from Umatilla County. “Area fire districts are primarily concerned about protecting boundary lines should the fire cross from the unprotected area into areas that are within fire protection districts.”

Due to the road closure and the “age of GPS systems,” according to the release, motorists unfamiliar with the area were attempting to go over Butler Grade enroute to La Grande.

Before the road could be closed to the unanticipated influx of traffic, large trucks had gone off the road and other vehicles were also having difficulties which clogged traffic. Staff from Umatilla County Public Works went to the scene to help untangle the mess and re-route traffic along routes designed to handle heavy traffic. After the road was cleared, the staff had to repair damage caused by large trucks that were inadvertently trying to use the route.

The staff even had to bring in a Russian interpreter because several of the trucks were being operated by drivers who were unable to respond to road signs in English or converse about other routes, according to Commissioner Larry Givens.

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