Fire destroys semitractor, shuts down southbound I-15 near Pintura

ST. GEORGE — A semitractor-trailer caught fire on southbound Interstate 15 near the Blackridge Exit in Pintura, which closed all southbound travel lanes for nearly 30 minutes as firefighters fought the blaze before it had a chance to spread to nearby vegetation Friday night.

Firefighters tackle semitractor-trailer fire on southbound Interstate 15 near mile marker 35, Washington County, Utah, Dec. 20, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol, St. George News

Shortly before 10 p.m. emergency dispatch began receiving multiple calls reporting that a semitractor-trailer was on fire on southbound I-15 near mile marker 35, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Adams told St. George News.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of information to go on as we headed out there,” he said.

Responders arrived to find the truck pulled off the right shoulder and the semi’s cab fully involved in flames that were spreading to the 53-foot box trailer as troopers closed down both southbound lanes and fire crews attacked the blaze.

Flames were also spreading from the truck to the hillside, Adams said, but with little brush and cold temperatures it basically extinguished itself when it ran out of fuel.

Video footage provided by Brandyn Holyoak and Brittney Chubbuck can be viewed at the top of this report. 

Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze before it caused any significant damage to the exterior of the trailer, and once the fire was out, a single lane was reopened as a backup of traffic began to move past the scene.

“We had both lanes closed for about 25 minutes so fire crews had room to work,” Adams said.

Cab of semitractor-trailer is destroyed in a fire on southbound Interstate 15 near mile marker 35, Washington County, Utah, Dec. 20, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol, St. George News

At the time of the incident, the semi driver told troopers he heard a couple of “loud popping noises,” and seconds later the cab began to fill with smoke as he pulled the truck off the right shoulder and grabbed the fire extinguisher as he exited the truck.

He then attempted to tackle the blaze, Adams said, but the extinguisher was just no match for the fire that was spreading quickly, and despite the fact that his efforts were unsuccessful, “he suffered no injuries so he’s very fortunate.”

The cab was destroyed and the trailer sustained extensive fire, smoke and water damage, along with the load of bar towels or rags the truck was hauling.

Adams said the tow-truck operator was able to pull the cab and trailer, still attached and fully loaded, from the roadway and tow it to the yard without offloading the load, which made for a more rapid recovery effort.

“If the fire had reached the tires or wheels, we would have been looking at a whole different situation out there,” he said.

A little more than two hours later, the scene was cleared and both southbound lanes were reopened for traffic. The cause of the fire is still under investigation and no injuries were reported.

Utah Highway Patrol, Hurricane Valley Fire District, Washington City Fire Department and New Harmony Fire Department responded and tended to the scene.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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