Engine fire melts semitrailer; Virgin River Gorge traffic impacts

Semi fire in the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Arizona, July 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Eric Benjamin Brooksby, St. George News
Semi fire in the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Arizona, July 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Arizona Highway Patrol Sgt John Bottoms, St. George News
Semi fire in the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Arizona, July 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Arizona Highway Patrol Sgt John Bottoms, St. George News

MOHAVE COUNTY, Arizona – A semitrailer caught fire impacting traffic on northbound Interstate 15 in the Virgin River Gorge Wednesday afternoon.

Around 2:30 p.m. MDT, Utah time, smoke began to pour out the engine of a semitrailer hauling roofing tiles on northbound I-15 while traveling through one of the bridge construction zones, Arizona Highway Patrol Sgt. John Bottoms said.

Travel in the construction zones is reduced to single-lanes with cement barricades on either side. The driver really had nowhere to go, so he kept moving forward even as smoke filled the semi cab, Bottoms said.

“The driver made a conscious effort to get out of the construction zone,” he said.

When he finally got of the construction area, the driver pulled the semi off the roadway around Arizona mile post 15 and got out of the cab before it was engulfed in smoke and flames.

“The flames just melted that truck right to the ground,” Bottoms said.

He also credited the driver with preventing a major incident on the roadway. If the truck had been stopped while in the construction zone, northbound traffic would have been halted for longer than it was.

AHP troopers closed down northbound I-15 for about 10-20 minutes so fire crews could get to the semi and put the fire out. This caused a three-to-four mile back up in traffic that took about an hour to clear up, Bottoms said.

Semi fire in the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Arizona, July 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Eric Benjamin Brooksby, St. George News
Semi fire in the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Arizona, July 2, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Eric Benjamin Brooksby, St. George News

The cause of the fire is unknown, and while the semi was rendered a complete loss, the blaze did not touch the cargo. The semi’s owner was able to arrange to have another semi to continue hauling the roofing tiles, Bottoms said.

The incident was cleared by 5:30 p.m.

Regular travel through the Gorge has been relegated to single-lane traffic in parts due to construction work being done on bridges spanning the Virgin River. The bridges were built in the 1970s and are currently the focus of a multi-million dollar construction project aimed at updating and rehabilitating the existing structures. As such, traffic in these parts of the gorge can be slowed to anywhere between 20-40 mph during normal travel conditions. Add the holidays or an accident and it gets worse.

In order to avoid a traffic-induced headache, Bottoms often recommends motorists take the alternate route of Old Highway 91 that bypasses the gorge completely. Just be on the lookout for the occasional wandering cow while passing through the Beaver Dam mountains.

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Impaired driver collides with bridge in the Gorge, charges pending

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

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7 Comments

  • IQ92 July 3, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Not to split hairs, but this was a semi-tractor, not a semi-trailer. Still, thanks for the coverage.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic July 3, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Oh it’s OK, split hairs keep the conversation going, IQ92. Let me explain: AP Style, which we follow for news writing, prefers the term semitrailer over other terms – thus that is what we use when talking about tractor-trailers, semis, 18-wheelers and the like. No edit required, but thank you for the chance to explain that.
      ST. GEORGE NEWS | STGnews.com
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

      • Split Hairs July 3, 2014 at 3:58 pm

        Sorry Joyce, but that explanation really doesn’t quite cut it. AP Style may be gold standard of news writing, but that doesn’t make it correct! If the AP decided to call Obama Nixon, would you go along with that? How about if they decide that ketchup should be called mustard? It just doesn’t make sense.

    • K July 3, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      k

  • zacii July 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    There have been several automobile fires in the Gorge this summer. Are the causes related to the slow traffic in the high heat?

  • Alex Lawhun July 4, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Just saying, the photo of the semi burning is actually my photo. I have it on my cell phone, Instagram, and Facebook. I didn’t give Eric permission to use it.

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