GREENE COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- A tractor-trailer carrying 80,000 pounds of motor oil erupted in flames Tuesday night, causing major traffic backups on I-81 in Greene County.
We spoke to an eyewitness of the fire, Joshua Strom, Wednesday afternoon.
Strom said that he, along with several others stopped to make sure the driver was okay.
Strom said he has experience as a volunteer firefighter, and EMT and just happened to be behind the tractor-trailer when it caught fire Tuesday evening.
“All of a sudden, I was about four vehicles behind when flames started shooting out of the back end of the tractor trailer…it was pretty crazy to see, it happen very quickly,” Strom said.
Wednesday afternoon traffic was still backed up for miles around 1pm as one lane was still blocked off so crews could continue to clean up.
Initial information from the Tennessee Highway patrol shows the fire was caused when the tractor-trailer’s brakes overheated.
Greene County EMA Director Bill Brown was on the scene of the fire through the overnight hours, and said because the truck was carrying oil, it took a while to extinguish the flames.
“In a situation like this, water was really just spreading the contamination on the soil, so sometimes its just best to let it burn for a while, and instead of putting any more water on it, until we got a dike built, we let it burn, and then we let it burn down some, and then we were able to put foam on it, and extinguish the fire at that point,” Brown said.
“Contaminated around 100 yards of the soil, down the ditch line…our main goal right now is to get the contaminated soil up,” Brown said.
Brown also told us that when the tractor-trailer caught fire, so did the pavement underneath.
“TDOT is milling, where the tractor-trailer sat and burnt the asphault so bad, and they are going to re-pave also,” Brown said.
Brown said even though drivers had to deal with traffic backups, and cleanup crews were still at work hours later, he was thankful nobody was injured.
“There are a thousand things that go through your mind when you are responding, you run a lot of scenarios through your mind when you are responding, your training kicks in and you go from there… it could have been a lot worse, it very well could have been,” Brown said.
As of 6p.m. Wednesday, TDOT spokesperson, Mark Nagi, said that all lanes on I-81 N at MM 33 in Greene County should be back open.
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