By Jayson Jacoby
The only gas station along the 45-mile stretch of Interstate 84 between Baker City and Huntington has closed.
The station and store at Durkee, about midway between the two towns, closed about two weeks ago.
An employee at the company that owns the Durkee station, Valley Wide Cooperative of Rupert, Idaho, said this morning that the business was closed, but referred further questions to an employee who was in a meeting.
The closure of the gas station leaves Durkee, an unincorporated community along the Burnt River, without retail fuel or food.
The Hungry Redneck restaurant, which was next to the gas station, closed more than a year ago, said Wes Prouty, who lives near the two former businesses on Vandecar Road, just north of Interstate 84.
Prouty said the gas station closure hasn't affected him.
He said he talked with someone at church in Baker City who had stopped in Durkee intending to buy gas, but then had to drive back to Baker City.
Elwood Wirth, who lives on Vandecar Road near the gas station, said there wasn't much notice about the closure.
"They removed the inventory and sucked the fuel out of the tanks," Wirth said. "Now we have no businesses in Durkee."
A sign along the freeway indicates there still is food and gas available in Durkee.
The Oregon Department of Transportation hadn't heard the gas station had closed.
Tom Strandberg, an ODOT spokesman, warned that people traveling the interstate between Baker City and Ontario should make sure they have enough fuel to get where they need to be.
"Be mindful when traveling through," he said. "Plan ahead."
The effect of the station's closure was almost immediately apparent in Huntington.
"We have noticed a substantial increase in business," said Brad Albro, who works at Snake River Garage, the only gas station in Huntington and, now, the only such business between Baker City and Ontario, a distance of 73 miles.
Albro said a rumor had been going around for a while that the Durkee station would be closed.
He said he talked with a couple of former employees who told him they showed up for work one morning and were told the business was closed.
Albro said several customers told him they had gotten off the freeway at Durkee, intending to buy gas there.
"They asked, 'what happened at Durkee?' " Albro said.
Snake River Garage had a similar spike in business during the spring of 2011, when the truck stop at Farewell Bend, along Interstate 84 about four miles southeast of Huntington, closed.
- Terri Harber of the Baker City Herald contributed to this story.