Semitruck, $500,000 in merchandise goes up in flames; STGnews Videocast, Photo Gallery

VIRGIN RIVER GORGE – Half a million dollars’ worth of merchandise reportedly went up in flames around 2 p.m. MDT Thursday when a semitrailer caught fire while traveling south on Interstate 15 through the Virgin River Gorge near milepost 12.

A half a million dollars’ worth of merchandise was destroyed when a semitrailer caught fire while traveling south on Interstate 15 along the Virgin River Gorge near milepost 12, Virgin River Gorge, Arizona, March 12, 2015 | Photo by ADPS Highway Patrol Sgt. John Bottoms
A semitrailer caught fire while traveling south on Interstate 15 along the Virgin River Gorge near milepost 12, Virgin River Gorge, Arizona, March 12, 2015 | Photo by ADPS Highway Patrol Sgt. John Bottoms

The driver of the semitrailer told police he heard a “pop” noise while traveling through the Gorge, Arizona Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol Sgt. John Bottoms said. The driver pulled over just outside of the south end of the Gorge.

When the driver got out of the cab of the semitrailer’s tractor, he noticed a fire near one of the fuel tanks.

“I arrived on scene and saw a couple of commercial truck drivers with fire extinguishers trying to extinguish the flames,” Bottoms said, “but the flames were already too big or too hot for the fire extinguishers to work.”

Bottoms said another truck driver tried to unhook the trailer from the truck while, the semitrailer driver was in the cab trying to drive in order to separate the trailer from the truck. However, the blaze was too big and too close and they were unable to detach the two.

“He was trying to unhook it but the flames were already consuming him standing there in the smoke when I got here, so I yelled at him to get out of there,” Bottoms said, and added:

The cab was filled with smoke so the driver really tried to put himself at risk to try to save the tractor but it was already too late.

Within just a couple of minutes, Bottoms said, the entire semitrailer and tractor were consumed by fire.

A half a million dollars’ worth of merchandise was destroyed when a semitrailer caught fire while traveling south on Interstate 15 along the Virgin River Gorge near milepost 12, Virgin River Gorge, Arizona, March 12, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
A half a million dollars’ worth of merchandise was destroyed when a semitrailer caught fire while traveling south on Interstate 15 along the Virgin River Gorge near milepost 12, Virgin River Gorge, Arizona, March 12, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

At about the time the Beaver Dam-Littlefield Fire Department arrived, Bottoms said, one of the gas tanks ruptured and spilled fuel out onto the highway.

“Flames lit that fuel,” he said, “so it consumed the entire travel length of the highway across Interstate 15.”

Fire crews began suppressing the blaze to a point where they got all the flames put out; but, the cargo was too hot to extinguish, forcing firefighters to have to rip open the side of the trailer to completely suppress the fire.

It took fire crews between an hour to an hour and a half to entirely suppress all the flames in both the semi’s tractor and trailer and all of the contents inside the trailer. The contents consisted of a variety of merchandise, including health and fitness supplies, vitamins, Zumba gear, mannequin heads and electronics.

A half a million dollars’ worth of merchandise was destroyed when a semitrailer caught fire while traveling south on Interstate 15 along the Virgin River Gorge near milepost 12, Virgin River Gorge, Arizona, March 12, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News
A half a million dollars’ worth of merchandise was destroyed when a semitrailer caught fire while traveling south on Interstate 15 along the Virgin River Gorge near milepost 12, Virgin River Gorge, Arizona, March 12, 2015 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

The owner of the semi estimated there was approximately $500,000 worth of merchandise inside the trailer, Bottoms said.

No injuries were reported as a result of the incident and the exact cause of the fire is still unknown, Bottoms said.

“It’s likely either a fuel line or brakes, or a tire that popped – and he continued to drive on it and it may have caused the fire,” he said, “which is common for commercial vehicle fires.”

Southbound traffic on Interstate 15 backed up for several hours and more than 10 miles as crews worked to put out the fire and clean up the scene.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • anybody home March 12, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Glad no one was hurt. Some great photos here by all the photographers.

  • ladybugavenger March 12, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Holy smoke! Bless his heart, he risked his life to try and save the trailer.

  • sagemoon March 13, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Holy scary!

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