National Guard ammunition simulator started fire at Umatilla Arm - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

National Guard ammunition simulator started fire at Umatilla Army Depot

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UPDATE: HERMISTON, OR --  The 3,000 acre fire on the Umatilla Depot land was started by The National Guard according to The Hermiston Fire Department.

The fire department said  the National Guard was out using an ammunition simulator and that is what started the fire last Monday.


HERMISTON, OR. -- A large fire in Umatilla shut down Interstate 82 for several hours while dozens of firefighters battled the fire in strong winds.

The wildfire wreaked havoc on Interstate 82 about 10 miles South of Umatilla. The smoke was so thick that drivers couldn't see feet in front of them and that caused three major accidents on the interstate including one that left a motorcycle with just twisted metal. 

A fire started on Umatilla Army Depot property spread quickly Monday afternoon, pushed by strong winds gusting over 20 MPH.

The smoke was so thick, drivers on the instate couldn't see the cars in front of them. Three serious accidents happened causing the interstate to close for several hours. We talked to one driver who described the conditions.

"As we got underneath the overpass, it was just like a blanket," Steve Dumond said. "Then we saw a wreck right here and another wreck. It was crazy smoke. You couldn't even see not even 2 feet in front of you."

The worst accident involved several motorcycles. One man was airlifted to Kadlec Medical Center with serious injuries. Two others were also injured. 

"As we were sitting here waiting to figure out what was going on and as that blanket was going on," Dumond said. "I mean my eyes were burning, you couldn't breathe. I had a napkin inside that I was just trying to block the smoke."

So far over 3,000 acres has burned, mostly Umatilla Army Depot property. Several army depot buildings have been destroyed in the fire. As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire was 35 percent contained and under control.

The Hermiston Fire Department says an artillery training exercise with the National Guard post possibly started the fire. It took several hours until the interstate reopened around 2:30 Monday afternoon.