Trailer’s brakes overheat, causing fire on southbound I-15

HURRICANE —  A semitrailer caught fire Tuesday on southbound Interstate 15 just south of Leeds, closing one traffic lane for more than three hours.

Hurricane Valley Fire District battalion chief Kohl Furley said the driver of the semitractor truck that was hauling the trailer was first alerted of the smoldering brakes by another motorist.

Scene of a semitrailer fire on southbound Interstate 15 between Leeds and Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 18, 2018 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

“He was motioned over from a driver that was passing him that he had a problem, so he pulled over off the side of the road as far as he could get to the shoulder,” Furley said of the semitractor’s driver. “He noticed he had active flames on the first set of axles on the tractor trailer and he used his extinguisher to put them out. At that time, a second fire started on the axle brake location to the rear of that. And then, that’s when we were dispatched.”

The flames spread quickly, the driver told St. George News, adding that the trailer was fully engulfed in flames within minutes. Still, the driver was able to detach the trailer from his truck and drive the truck away to safety a short distance up the road.

The incident occurred on a uphill stretch of road near mile marker 20, approximately two miles south of the Leeds exit.

The initial call to dispatch came in shortly before noon. A dozen firefighters responded to the scene, including personnel with a Hurricane fire engine, a Hurricane brush truck and a state brush truck, Furley said.

A firefighter applies water to charred grass at the scene of a semitrailer fire on southbound Interstate 15 between Leeds and Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 18, 2018 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

The trailer was carrying a load of bags of citric, used in the manufacturing of soft drinks. Although the granular material is not toxic nor flammable, Furley said the firefighters still wore protective gear, used only water to extinguish the blaze and worked to contain any runoff.

The fire also burned a section of weeds and grass adjacent to the interstate, downhill from the right shoulder of the road.

“We’re just doing what we call a salvage and overhaul operations, or we have to get in and mop up what’s left of the fire and anything else that could be smoldering to prevent a reignition in the future,” Furley added.

No injuries were reported, but the trailer and its contents appeared to be a total loss.

Utah Department of Transportation officials and Utah Highway Patrol troopers closed off the right lane of the interstate while crews put out the fire and prepared the trailer for its eventual removal from the roadside. Southbound traffic reportedly experienced minor delays of no more than 5-10 minutes for at least three hours following the incident.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by fire safety officials and other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

St. George News reporter ANDREW PINCKNEY contributed to this report.

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