Crews Inspect Damage After California Tanker Fire

December 16, 2011

Thousands of motorists faced what could be a nightmarish commute as a 10-mile stretch of a busy freeway near Los Angeles remained closed indefinitely after a big-rig tanker erupted into flames and burned to the pavement. No one was injured.

Crews worked through the night cleaning up the stretch of State Highway 60, a major artery linking Los Angeles with the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire.

The fire, which began shortly after noon Wednesday, left thousands of motorists stuck in place for hours.

California Highway Patrol officers backed traffic up and turned it around, using off-ramps to guide the cars onto clogged surface streets. Meanwhile, flood control crews and officials from the California Department of Fish & Game worked to contain toxic runoff from the fire on State Highway 60 between interstates 710 and 605.

“Our main concern is runoff,” Montebello Fire Chief Tim Wessel said.

The double tanker truck melted under the Paramount Boulevard overpass. Many motorists called the patrol reporting explosions. “That was concrete in the bridge exploding from the extreme heat,” Wessel said.

The freeway was littered with concrete chunks, foam and melted truck.

The blaze spewed choking black smoke into the Montebello area. Wessel said about 200 firefighters responded to the third-alarm fire.

CHP Officer Krystal Carter said the freeway would remain closed until further notice and advised motorists to plan alternate routes or take public transportation to avoid the area.

Transportation officials were waiting to inspect the freeway and the bridge, the CHP said.

The cause of the fire can’t be confirmed until inspectors look at the melted truck. Investigators were looking at all possibilities, including whether the truck’s brakes may have overheated, Carter said.

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