2 big rigs catch fire, snarl morning commute

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WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (BCN) - Two big-rigs that caught fire Friday morning caused only one injury but snarled traffic for commuters in the Bay Area, California Highway Patrol officers said.

A big-rig fire was reported at 5:56 a.m. on Interstate Highway 680 just south of state Highway 24, according to CHP officials.

Another big-rig fire on state Highway 37 in Vallejo near the West Wilson off-ramp was first reported at 6:47 a.m., CHP officials said.

The fires closed each highway in both directions for some time, CHP officials said.

On I-680, a double-trailer big-rig carrying 60,000 pounds of gravel breached the concrete wall separating the north- and southbound lanes of traffic, CHP Officer John Fransen said.

The truck crossed the southbound lanes and is stuck on a guardrail, Fransen said.

The truck launched concrete from the highway-dividing wall onto both sides of the freeway and vehicles collided with the falling debris, he said.

Fortunately the gravel stayed on the truck, Fransen said.

The big-rig's two diesel fuel tanks, each carrying 50 gallons of fuel, caught fire, he said.

Most of the fuel burned off but some found its way into dirt near a storm drain, he said. Crews are suctioning out the affected dirt to limit environmental damage, he said.

Four people complained of pain in the incident, he said. One of those complained they got glass in their eye and were short of breath, he said.

"We're counting our blessings this morning," Fransen said regarding the minimal injuries resulting from the collision.

All northbound lanes and two southbound lanes of I-680 were closed as of 9:08 a.m., Fransen said. Three southbound lanes were open.

CHP officials didn't expect to have the roadway clear until noon, he said.

The fire started small brush fires on a highway embankment, which firefighters extinguished, Fransen said.

The big-rig on Highway 37 was carrying hay bails, which caught fire, CHP Officer Dave Harvey said.

"The cargo is all hay," Harvey said, quelling fears the cargo was toxic. The driver of the big-rig, who some thought left the collision site, is there, Harvey said.

No one was injured in the collision involving five vehicles, he said.

The eastbound lanes of the highway are open and the westbound lanes remain closed.