TERRE HAUTE, IN — A Werner Enterprises semi truck was carrying a mixed load of merchandise headed for a Walmart store in Texas, when a fire broke out in the trailer early Friday morning, September 18, 2010. The tractor trailer accident temporarily closed Interstate 70 near the four-mile marker.
Sugar Creek Fire Chief, James Holbert, said that the driver of the Werner Enterprises semi truck stated that he heard a noise and saw sparks coming from between the truck and the trailer prior to the fire at around 4:51 a.m.
By the time the truck stopped along the highway, Holbert said, the fire had spread into the contents of the trailer.
Ironically, part of the cargo the trailer was carrying contained a pallet of fire extinguishers. Other merchandise in the trailer included housewares, toys and shoes.
“Everything was a total loss due to water and smoke damage,” Holbert said of the merchandise.
The Tribstar.com reports that firefighters used metal cutting saws to open the sides of the trailer. They pulled the merchandise out onto the highway to extinguish the blaze as it burned among the tightly packed cargo.
“If not, it would have sat there and probably burned for days,” Holbert said of the trailer.
The heat from the fire was so intense that it burned some of the tires off the vehicle, and it melted the tops on the fuel tanks. No liquids leaked out of the tanks, he said, but the tanks had to be pumped out because of the damage. The fire also destroyed the sleeper area of the truck cab.
Both westbound lanes of Interstate 70 were closed for about an hour and traffic was diverted onto U.S. 40 at Indiana 46 and U.S. 41 during that time. One lane was eventually reopened, and firefighters cleared the scene at about 9 a.m.
The Sugar Creek firefighters were assisted at the scene by the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana State Police and Terre Haute Fire Department.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation
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