Bystanders jump to help after car being towed by U-haul bursts into flames on I-15

ST. GEORGE — Bystanders jumped to help after a car being towed by a moving truck caught fire on Interstate 15 in St. George Saturday afternoon.

Smoke from a car fire in the distance on southbound Interstate 15 near Exit 2, St. George, Utah, June 1, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Shortly after 3 p.m. emergency crews responded to the vehicle fire on southbound I-15 just north of Exit 2 involving a fully engulfed passenger car being pulled behind a U-Haul truck, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jake Hicks said.

Firefighters arrived to find flames coming form both the car and towing trailer. Thick black smoke billowing from the fire could be seen from more than a mile away.

As firefighters attacked the blaze, two additional fire engines arrived with tanks full of water after winding through heavy traffic. A St. George Police officer stopped to assist with traffic control by blocking the outside lane to provide enough room for responding fire engines and other emergency vehicles, while a UHP trooper directed traffic away from the fire.

After roughly 10 minutes, the fire was contained. Crews continued dousing the car and trailer with water to extinguish any hidden hot spots and to cool the heated metal.

Firefighters respond to the scene of a car fire on Interstate 15 near Exit 2, St. George, Utah, June 1, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The passenger car and the tow dolly it was secured to were completely destroyed in the fire, while the rear sliding door of the U-Haul was blackened by the smoke but otherwise sustained minimal damage.

Hicks said the man driving the U-Haul was helping his elderly mother move from Montana to Kingman, Arizona, when the incident took place.

As they headed south, the driver looked in his rear-view mirror and saw smoke coming from the back of the U-Haul. He quickly pulled off the interstate and stopped on the shoulder, but by then the car was fully engulfed in flames.

The fire appeared to start in the front of either the car or the trailer, Hicks said, noting that due to the extensive damage, it was nearly impossible to tell what actually caught fire first.

Bystanders come to the rescue

When the car initially caught fire, Hicks said several bystanders and motorists stopped to help the pair.

A passenger car is destroyed after it burned on southbound Interstate 15 near Exit 2 in St. George, Utah, June 1, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“We had so many good Samaritans out here helping these people,” he said.

One bystander, Gary Couch, said he was in his truck in the SunRiver area when he saw the black smoke coming from the interstate, at which point he got out of his truck and ran to help.

Couch and another man carried the elderly passenger to a safe area away from the fire “in case the gas tank exploded,” he said.

Several bystanders also remained at the scene to help the pair transfer some of their personal belongings from the U-Haul to a UHP trooper’s vehicle.

Southbound traffic on Interstate 15 continues to back up as responders tend to car fire, St. George, Utah, June 1, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Hicks drove the driver and his mother to a motel until further arrangements could be made.

“We just want to make sure they get to somewhere safe now that we have the wrecker coming out to get the car,” he said.

Traffic was impacted for nearly an hour, with the outside lane blocked by multiple fire engines, an ambulance and patrol vehicles as responders tended to the scene.

No injuries were reported.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Twitter: @STGnews

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

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