WB I-80 lanes reopened 10 hours after big-rig fire


Commuters thought they caught a break with a delay in the potential BART strike, but they were met by gridlock at the Bay Bridge toll plaza and beyond.

The truck was moving west across the bridge around 5:45 a.m. when the driver noticed something wrong with his right, front tire.

"I feel like, like a wobbling on the front tire, on the steerings. And then I hear the front tire blow out," said truck driver Sergio Mata.

Mata then pulled over to the shoulder just west of Fremont Street.

"I saw the flames come out from the holes of the windshield wipers. So I grab fire extinguisher but I see flames are bigger than what I can do with fire extinguisher," he said.

He managed to get out. Minutes later, the 18-wheeler ignited into an inferno, creating a traffic nightmare.

The flames were shooting 30 feet into the air and it took firefighters about an hour to extinguish the blaze. But the fire had already taken its toll.

At noon, three westbound lanes of I-80 were still closed by the California Highway Patrol. It was the kind of bridge traffic people expected to be caused by a BART strike.

"We all woke up to find out that there was no BART strike and now we have this," said CHP officer Laura Clare.

As commuters inched along blocked lanes, firefighters removed diesel fuel from the truck and worked to on plans to move the big rig from the roadway.

That turned out to be more difficult than they thought. The contents of the truck were destroyed by the fire.

"Sushi, rice and vinegar," said Mata.

The food supplies had absorbed most of the water from the hoses, making the truck heavier and more difficult to remove. Cleanup crews using absorbent swept the oil and rice vinegar mixture from the roadway.

"They're probably going to have to cut the trailer in half and start offloading the debris. It's going to take a significant amount of time," said Clare.

Crews separated the cab from the trailer and dragged both onto flatbed trucks. The trailer was flattened and both were taken away by 2:30 p.m.

The lanes were reopened shortly after 3 p.m.

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