Tire fire mires Interstate 80 morning commute near Applegate

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Westbound Interstate 80 traffic flows near the Heather Glen exit were temporarily disrupted at about 9 a.m. because of a big-rig fire that could have been worse than it was. Driver Don Strickland was able to hold the fire from spreading as he emptied both of his extinguishers and then an unidentified Good Samaritan also joined in with another extinguisher before firefighters arrived and were able to douse the blaze. The fire was contained to the flat tire that Strickland said he believed started the blaze and some hose located between the tractor and trailer. Strickland said he had attempted to drive the truck to the nearest exit ramp to disconnect the trailer but when flames began shooting up around the tire, he pulled off to the side of the highway. The rig was hauling a tanker filled with synthetic plastic that Strickland said isn’t considered hazardous. It was bound for the Bay Area from Kansas City. “I only had another 100 miles to go,” Strickland said. The California Highway Patrol dropped traffic to a single lane on the westbound two-lane stretch of freeway east of Applegate, opening the second lane again at about 9:30 a.m. Highway Patrol Sgt. Gordon Canham said that the fire from a flat tire was a little unusual. Usually, fires on the downhill stretch of Interstate 80 are caused by over-heated brakes. The black smoke hung in a virtually windless sky for several minutes after the fire was extinguished and could be seen from as far away as the Meadow Vista exit, about 4 miles away. – Gus Thomson