Semi carrying office supplies goes up in flames on I-15

The aftermath of a Swift semitrailer and its contents after it became fully-engulfed in flames in Interstate 15, near New Harmony, Utah, Nov. 19, 2014 | Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News

SOUTHERN UTAH – A semitruck lit up the night when it caught fire and became fully-engulfed in flames Wednesday evening while traveling northbound on Interstate 15 near mile marker 47, just north of New Harmony Exit 42.

Shortly before 7:30 p.m., a Swift semitruck carrying office supplies burst into flames and the fire quickly spread due to the highly-flammable contents, Cedar City Fire Department Assistant Chief Lanor Warby said.

Burnt office supplies spill out of a Swift semi truck trailer after it caught fire on Interstate 15, Kanarraville, Utah, Nov. 19, 2014 |Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News
Burnt office supplies spill out of a Swift semitruck trailer after it caught fire on Interstate 15 near mile marker 47, Southern Utah, Nov. 19, 2014 | Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News

The driver of the semitruck, J. Cranford, 37, was traveling from Las Vegas to Green River, where he would stop for the night before continuing to Colorado, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Adam Gibbs said.

“We think what happened is that he had a flat tire,” Gibbs said. “He pulled over because he had a blow out and he thinks that’s what caused his truck to get pretty hot, so he pulled over and it started up in flames.”

When Cranford saw the fire, he attempted to extinguish it, but failed. As the fire grew, the rear left tires both blew out – one of which hit a passing car, but caused no injury or damage, Gibbs said.

Cedar City Fire Department responded to the scene and were able to put the flames out by 7:55 p.m. but how the fire started, is still under investigation.

Cedar City firefighters said from looking at the trailer, the point of origin appeared to be within a wheel axel, which then caused the tires to blow. After talking to Cranford, Gibbs said a hot tire or wheel bearing were possible factors in causing the fire.

Aftermath of a semi trailer that caught fire shows empty tire axels and a holes in the trailer, which allowed firefighters the access  to spray water and prevent flare ups in the back of the trailer, Kanarraville, Utah, Nov. 19, 2014 |Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News
Aftermath of a semitrailer that caught fire shows empty tire axels and a holes in the trailer, which allowed firefighters access to spray water and prevent flare ups in the back of the trailer, Southern Utah, Nov. 19, 2014 |Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News

Cedar City Fire Department, Utah Highway Patrol, Iron County Sheriff’s Office and Utah Department of Transportation responded to the scene. Iron County Sheriff’s Office provided initial traffic control before UDOT came to the scene just after 9 p.m. to set road flares and a right lane closure until the trailer could be towed.

UDOT also brought in a backhoe to knock holes in the left side of the trailer, providing Cedar City firefighters with the ability  to spray water back into the trailer as prevention of any flare ups that might cause a bigger fire.

Cranford was able to detach the trailer from the truck, which remained unharmed. The estimated damage cost of the trailer and its contents were unknown, although Cranford said he knew the cost would be high because the contents were enough for three location stops.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by UHP and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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6 Comments

  • Driver November 20, 2014 at 9:51 am

    What is a wheel barring?

    • Koolaid November 20, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      It’s Dixie lingo, otherwise known as Dixiebonics.

    • indy-vfr November 20, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      As an “Old Bearing Guy” I suspect a brake shoe problem or spring brake failure. If the bearing fails it will lock up the hub/wheel pretty quickly – which the driver should have noticed immediately.

      • Koolaid November 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm

        Kind of makes sense if the bearing burns up and seizes on the spindle that the wheel/tire would drag on the pavement and overheat. However, supporting your statement, I have seen southbound semis on highway 18 have smoke pouring from their wheels from brakes overheating. One truck was pulled over on Bluff Street with one wheel in flames, but the driver was able to extinguish it.

    • DB November 20, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      It’s near the “wheel axel”. Sorry, there it was, couldn’t resist. Spell check only goes so far 🙂

  • Zonkerb November 20, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    It’s something they use in St George to help them find their way out of a roundabout I think but then they still think Lincoln is the president

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