An attentive semi-driver and the quick work of area fire departments ensured a truck fire near Chamberlain didn’t turn into a tragic or explosive situation.
Craik RCMP received a call around 7:45 p.m. on Jan. 20 about a semi-tanker on fire northwest of Chamberlain on Highway 11. The fire apparently started in the rear running gear of the tanker itself. Police immediately re-directed traffic away from the scene so the fire departments from Holdfast and Craik could put out the blaze.
Around 10 p.m., the southbound lane of Highway 11 was closed again while fuel in the tanker was transferred to another semi. This took about two hours, according to a news release.
The Holdfast Fire Department responded to the call first, with the Craik Fire Department following soon after, Craik fire Chief Rob Pattison told the Moose Jaw Express. Although the situation is still under investigation, he assumed it was the oil tanker tire or a brake that started the fire.
“If a brake fails and heats up it can start a fire,” he said. “It’s something that we don’t come across often.”
The semi-tanker was stationery when it caught fire, Pattison continued. The driver had pulled her vehicle over and used two fire extinguishers on the rear running gear but to no avail. She would have kept driving if not for another semi driver behind her who flashed his headlights at her until she pulled over.
The Holdfast crew managed to put out most of the fire when the Craik team arrived, although there were still sparks and embers shooting out. The rubber on the tire kept smouldering, said Pattison, which can be difficult to extinguish.
“The rubber trapped underneath the rim of the weight of the trailer — where you can’t get to it ’cause the trailer’s on top of it — was flaring up,” he continued, “so we just kept an eye on it and put it out every time it kind of started sparking or smoking up.”
Both fire departments received the call around 7:45 p.m., and by the time they were finished on scene, it was 2:30 a.m. Pattison acknowledged that this was a call that took longer than usual to finish.
“It could have been way more serious if the heat was able to puncture the tank and rupture it in any way and the fuel caught on fire,” he continued. “That would have been very, very volatile and it would have burned for a long time … You basically would just keep everybody back, shut the highway down and let it burn itself out.”
Pattison didn’t think the fuel tanker was at risk of exploding due to the way it was built.
No one was hurt in this situation. RCMP are still investigating.