15 tons of potatoes become smoky spuds after semitrailer catches fire

A semitrailer catches fire on Interstate 15 near mile marker 89 north of Paragonah, Iron County, Utah, June 7, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Poor maintenance is reportedly to blame for a fire that broke out Friday in the rear of the trailer as a semitrailer headed north on Interstate 15 just miles from the Beaver County line.

A semi trailer catches fire on Interstate 15 near mile marker 89 north of Paragonah, Iron County, Utah, June 7, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol, St. George News

Shortly after 6 a.m. Utah Highway Patrol troopers and emergency personnel were dispatched to a vehicle fire on I-15 near mile marker 89 just north of Paragonah involving a semitractor-trailer hauling 30,000-35,000 pounds of potatoes, UHP Trooper Brian Bairett said.

As soon as the driver saw flames coming from the rear of the trailer he pulled the truck off the right shoulder where he detached the trailer and pulled forward about 100 yards.

Responders arrived to find the blaze primarily burning toward the rear of the trailer while troopers shut down the right lane of the interstate as fire engines and crews began arriving at the scene.

“The Paragonah Fire Department showed up and saved the day when they put that fire out,” Bairett said.

The fire was extinguished within 20 minutes or so, he said, and the lane was quickly reopened for morning traffic.

During the investigation troopers discovered the axle bearings on both rear axles were completely dry, Bairett said.

“Both axles actually caught on fire that spread up towards the trailer,” he added.

A semitrailer is damaged after it caught fire on Interstate 15 near mile marker 89, Iron County, Utah, June 7, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol, St. George News

The fire burned through a section of the trailer’s hull just above each wheel on both sides, but a majority of the trailer remained unaffected, while the tires on driver’s side of the trailer were nearly melted to the ground.

While the trailer filled with smoke, the load of potatoes remained relatively intact, but Bairett added “they may be a little smoky though.”

Once the load was transferred to another trailer the damaged trailer was towed from the roadway.

The driver was later cited for failing to maintain the truck’s equipment and the trailer was unloaded and removed from the roadway.

Whenever equipment is not properly maintained, as was the case in this incident, it puts other motorists in danger, Bairett said, adding that driving with dry axles is dangerous but completely preventable with proper maintenance.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact. 

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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

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