Fast moving rangeland fires don't know how to read a stop sign. Already this fire season, transportation officials have had to close major roads and highways in eastern Oregon several times.
Oregon Department of Transportation's Peter Murphy says in the recent fire north of Madras the fire was moving towards Highway 97, so they had to shut it down for several safety reasons. And it happens a lot with large, wind-whipped fires: “Really its also for the firefighters who are out fighting the fire. We have firefighters with axes over their shoulders literally walking down the highway because its the best way to get to their next place to fight the fire. So that's one reason why we don't want to have cars on the road. And so it’s for the safety of the motorists, and for the crews who are actually fighting the fire.”
The challenges for drivers going through fire zones are low visibility from smoke and added hazards from fire crews navigating equipment on and near the highways.