Tanker Fire Closes Southbound Lanes Of I-15, Firefighters Learned From Previous Fires

Feb 22, 2019, 7:43 PM | Updated: Feb 23, 2019, 8:17 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Highway Patrol investigators are trying to figure out what led a 17-year-old driver to lose control of his car and end up in the path of a tanker truck. The collision led to a fire that shut down southbound I-15 for hours.

UHP Lieutenant Danny Allen said the tanker truck had just filled up at the Marathon Refinery near 900 North in Salt Lake City. It was loaded with 8,100 gallons of gasoline and diesel.

The truck, he said, was bound for Salem, Utah.

Dash cam video of the fire was released by UHP Saturday morning.

Lt. Allen said the Honda and tanker were both driving south along I-15 when the Honda veered to the left, over-corrected to the right, collided with the concrete barrier and bounced back into the path of the tanker.

He said the tanker’s trailer hit the car, launching it into the air and overturning the truck, which caught fire.

Neither driver was seriously injured in the crash, but the resulting fire tied up the southbound lanes for hours.

Salt Lake City fire crews called for help from the Utah Air National Guard’s Blue Company, based at Salt Lake City International Airport.

While the fire department has plenty of the fire-extinguishing foam they needed, the Blue Company has a vehicle that dispenses the foam much more quickly.

Captain Adam Archuleta of the Salt Lake City Fire Department said they had the fire under control within about an hour.

A burning tanker is a challenge for firefighters because the fuel can flow away to other areas. Allen said some fuel flowed into a nearby drain, where it exploded below the freeway.

“It was loud and quick and you felt that percussion through the roadway and you look over and there’s flames coming out of the drainage pipe,” Allen said.

First responders in the area have worked similar scenes in the past. A tanker caught fire on I-15 near Midvale in January 2018.

“The access to the water was not as close as we would hope it would be, and so it took longer to engage,” Archuleta said of the 2018 incident.

Each time firefighters go to a scene, they learn lessons they can apply in the future. Archuleta said they had a plan for water when the tanker ignited Thursday night.

“We needed to find the nearest hydrant that we could get access to off the freeway and on the nearest roadway. In this case, immediately west of us was a commercial area, so we were able to shut down the collector side of I-15 and get the water access that we needed there,” he said.

Utah Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the crash.

Allen identified the tanker driver as 41-year-old Spencer Powell of Bountiful and the Honda driver as a 17-year-old from Cedar Hills.

Both drivers went to the hospital to be checked out and were later released.

The Utah Department of Transportation will repair 12 to 13 concrete panels in the road and will have to replace 333 feet of concrete barrier, spokesperson John Gleason said. They have put in a temporary patch until the weather is good enough to do the work.

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Tanker Fire Closes Southbound Lanes Of I-15, Firefighters Learned From Previous Fires