Big-Rig fire causes massive back up on I-15 in Lake Elsinore

Written by Trevor Montgomery

Riverside County News Source

For Valley News


A tractor-trailer semi-truck fire has caused a massive back up on the I-15 freeway, according to California Highway Patrol officials and witnesses near the scene. CHP officers initially called for the shutdown of all southbound lanes of traffic for the safety of passing motorists and fire personnel. Later, all lanes of traffic in both directions were temporarily closed.

According to an incident report issued by Riverside County Fire Department, the tanker truck carrying approximately 8700 gallons of fuel was fully involved and I-15 had been closed indefinitely in both directions.

Forty-four firefighters were on scene from nine engine companies and one truck company. Hazmat was also on scene, said Riverside Country Fire Spokeswoman Jennifer Fuhrman.

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Photo Credit: CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department

At about 1:05 p.m. 911 calls started pouring in to the CHP Dispatch Center regarding the fire. Initial callers stated they could see fire coming from around the tires of the tractor-trailer.

The driver of the big-rig, who had also called 911 to report the fire after pulling to the ride side of the roadway, stated one of his tires shredded while driving and caused the fire. The driver also advised he was hauling fuel and that his trailer was fully engulfed in flames.

Within minutes, the first arriving officers confirmed the semi-truck was fully engulfed in fire. The officers also advised they could see one or more people attempting to extinguish the flames, without success.

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Photo Credit: CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department

At 1:10 p.m. a CHP officer reported an explosion at the location. It was unknown whether the reported explosion was due to the fuel or due to a tire exploding. At that time, officers called for all southbound traffic to be diverted off the freeway at Lake Street and requested a SIG Alert.

At 1:12 p.m., officers on scene requested supervisors and additional resources to the location of the raging fire. Reports from the CHP incident log indicated fuel was spilling onto the freeway and a field adjacent to the roadway. Officers also advised the fire was spreading out and away from the truck.

One eyewitness, Andy Harris, was driving south on the freeway and was nearly to the location of the fire, when a SIG Alert was activated and all southbound traffic was halted. According to Harris, CHP officers, with assistance from Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies, had him and all other southbound traffic turn around on the freeway and exit using the Nichols St. on ramp to leave the freeway.

By 1:30, all southbound traffic was being diverted off the freeway at Lake Street.

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Photo Credit: CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department

“It was a huge fire. I could see the smoke for miles,” Harris said. “Traffic had to have been backed up all the way to Riverside. I never got close enough to see what had caused the fire, but there were at least five fire trucks on scene that I could see before I exited the freeway.”

According to Harris, the reported tractor-trailer fire was the second one on the same freeway and he described the two separate fires as being just a few miles apart though at different times during the day. About the first tractor-trailer fire, Harris said he witnessed the driver of the semi-truck disconnecting his rig from the trailer, which was fully engulfed in flames.

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Photo Credit: CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department

According to a CHP incident log, at 1:55 p.m. officers on-scene reported the fire was spreading and they updated the SIG Alert to include northbound lanes of traffic. Vehicles were reported to be driving the wrong way on the freeway and exiting the freeway via dirt roads and exiting through openings in the fence to escape both the blaze and the traffic caused by the fire…

Visit Valley News for rest of story and for further updates regarding this incident.


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