Highway 20 east of Sisters was closed for 2.5 hours last week due to a truck fire. photo courtesy Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office
Highway 20 east of Sisters was closed for 2.5 hours last week due to a truck fire. photo courtesy Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office
An empty refrigerator truck trailer caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, July 21, on Highway 20 just east of Sisters.

The blaze, which spread to surrounding trees and brush, caused the highway to be closed in both directions for over two hours as Cloverdale Fire District Firefighters, backed up by Sisters-Camp Sherman firefighters and personnel from the Sisters Ranger District doused the flames.

Cloverdale Fire Chief Thad Olsen told The Nugget that the fire was probably caused by a brake problem.

“There’s skid marks you can see for about 500-feet before he pulls over,” Olsen said.

That, the Chief said, indicates that the brakes may have locked up and overheated, causing the tires to catch fire, in turn setting the trailer on fire. The truck, owned out of Minnesota, was empty — except for 100 gallons of diesel fuel used to run the refrigerator unit.

Chief Olsen said that the driver disconnected the truck and tried to put the fire out himself before calling 911. He was not injured.

Cloverdale firefighters doused the trailer fire while a crew from the Forest Service caught the blaze that had spread into the roadside brush.

“This time of year, that’s our biggest concern,” Olsen said.

The truck essentially burned down to the axles.

“The wrecking company had to cut the trailer in half to haul it away,” Olsen said.

Oregon State Police, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office units and Oregon Department of Transportation all responded to help manage the incident. Cloverdale personnel washed the highway clean after the wreckage was hauled away.

Overheated brakes are not an uncommon problem with trucks coming over the pass, and Olsen is grateful that the situation wasn’t worse.

“We’re very fortunate that it wasn’t something like a hazardous chemical — because all trucks are susceptible to that sort of thing,” he said.