Fire on hay hauler shuts down Hwy 64
Two semis owned by Reynolds Nationwide, a freight company based out of San Antonio, Texas, stopped near mile marker 9 on Highway 64, the steep incline popularly known as Melon Hill, after the driver of the rear semi sighted smoke in his rearview mirrors.
Heat from the truck’s exhaust pipe had warmed a hay bale directly behind the pipe, the wind later fanning the bale into flames, Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jarrod Lang said. After attempts to put the fire out with extinguishers failed, the drivers decided to separate the trailer from the tractor.
As they did, Lang said, burning hay from the trailer fell onto the tractor, igniting it.
“They got the truck far enough away from the trailer (to keep the trailer from burning), but there was nothing else they could do,” Lang said.
Personnel arrived on scene within 10 minutes of the call, which came in to Rangely Communica-tions Center at 1:06 p.m. and was cut off soon afterward, Lang said.
“The only information the dispatcher had was that a trailer was on fire,” Lang said. “We didn’t know if it was a structure, a vehicle trailer or a recreational trailer.”
Firefighters arrived on scene just before 1:30 p.m., Rangely Rural Fire Protection District (RRFPD) officer-in-charge Mike Zadra said. For four hours, the crew used a pumper and heavy brush truck, with additional water brought in from Target Trucking, to extinguish the tractor and bale fires.
The Colorado Department of Transportation removed approximately 12 bales of burned or burning hay from the trailer, Zadra said. The trailer itself had minimal damage.
Later, firefighters extinguished a bale that ignited on the second semi’s trailer. Lang said an earlier examination of the trailer had revealed some discoloration in a hay bale near the semi’s exhaust pipe but no heat. As the driver prepared to move the trailer so that the discolored bale could be removed, it began smoking. RRFPD crew removed and doused the bale with no damage.