Two people have died in a multivehicle accident involving a tractor-trailer that sparked a large fire which spread across all northbound lanes of an Atlanta-area interstate on Saturday morning, authorities said.
Traffic on Interstate 85 near the Gwinnett-DeKalb county border was temporarily shut down, and drivers were evacuated from their vehicles.
Flames from the crash rose 30 feet high, and some drivers were stuck over two hours while emergency responders worked to control the blaze, reported NBC affiliate WXIA in Atlanta.
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Motorist Zach Rigg, 26, of Atlanta, captured cellphone video of the scene as he drove by before the highway was closed. He said first responders directed traffic to the center of the roadway as flames scorched the pavement.
“You see this big thick black cloud of smoke in the air, and you know its not good,” he said. “I rolled down the window [and] you could feel the heat. That’s how hot it was.”
“An overturned tanker truck and a passenger car fully engulfed in flames” were found by first responders at the scene, Gwinnett County police said.
The northbound part of the interstate was “completely consumed by fire across all lanes of traffic,” the county fire and emergency services agency said. “While additional crews were arriving and responding to the scene, flammable liquids from the trailer were spilling into the storm drains on the side” of the highway.
Brush fires resulting from the blaze affected multiple nearby businesses and caused some power outages in the area, the county fire department said, adding that the tractor-trailer involved had been “reportedly carrying 8,500 gallons of fuel including 7,500 gallons of gasoline and 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel.”
Firefighters “encountered an inferno as the first crews arrived on scene” and “subsequent explosions were seen and heard as the fuel ignited,” the fire department said.
Multiple agencies worked to control the blaze.
In the late afternoon, the Georgia Department of Transportation announced that two lanes of the northbound highway had been reopened. Crews were repaving an estimated 100-by-70-foot section of the roadway, the department said.
Sasha Urban contributed.