Feb. 18–I-91 North in Rocky Hill was closed for about 12 hours Sunday, after a tanker truck hauling about 9,000 gallons of gasoline caught fire, snarling traffic for thousands of travelers.
The fire occurred between Exits 23 and 24, and state police said no injuries were reported.
State environmental protection crews are assessing the damage caused by gasoline that ran off into the ground adjacent to the highway and a stream, Rocky Hill Fire Chief Michael Garrahy said. State Department of Transportation crews are assessing the asphalt on which the truck sat, a damaged guardrail and a light post that melted, and Eversource crews are assessing high voltage lines that pass over the scene of the fire, the chief said.
One northbound lane reopened at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday, with the rest reopening at about 6 p.m.
Rocky Hill police were flooded with 911 calls reporting an explosion at about 6 a.m. State troopers from the Hartford barracks were the first on the scene and closed the highway.
Garrahy, the first firefighter to arrive, said he assessed the situation and decided to let the tanker truck burn. There are water supply issues on the highway, he said, and there were no people or buildings that had to be protected. Three 32,000-kilovolt Eversource transmission lines passing over the fire scene were also a concern, he said. And battling the blaze could have caused gasoline to spread further from the scene, he said.
The fire’s cause remains under investigation.
“There was really no saving the tanker,” he said. The five burned for about three hours, Garrahy estimated. The highway was closed in both directions until the fire was out.
Although much of the gasoline was consumed in the blaze, firefighters and environmental crews placed absorbent booms downstream to collect as much gasoline runoff as possible.
Garrahy said he did not talk to the driver, but firefighters did find the truck’s fire extinguisher near the front of the truck. It was empty.
The fire largely consumed the truck cab and the tank trailer.
Rocky Hill police evacuated a portion of the Lexington Estates condominiums because of concern about smoke and fumes from the fire. People were able to return to their homes after several hours, Sgt. Steve Morgan said.
David Owens can be reached at email@example.com.
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