LUMBERTON — A tractor-trailer rig carrying passenger cars caught fire Friday morning on Interstate 95 just outside of Lumberton, law enforcement and firefighters said, destroying all but one of the vehicles and causing major disruption of traffic flow.
The rig was travellng south on I-95 when it caught fire about 3:45 a.m., said Trooper M.J. Connor, of the state Highway Patrol. The rig was between mile markers 22 and 23, about 200 yardss north of Lumberton when it caught fire.
No one was injured, Connor said. Both southbound lanes were blocked and traffic was diverted onto U.S. 301 for about one hour.
“Basically, the truck was going south when another civilian vehicle drove up next to it and pointed to the back of the truck, indicating to the truck’s driver that flames were coming from the rear axle,” Connor said.
Firefighting units from Northwood’s Fire and Rescue Department, Saddletree Volunteer Fire Department and Lumberton Fire Department were called to fight the blaze.
Twelve firefighters were on hand to battle the blaze, said Josh Windom, the Northwood’s chief. Northwood’s responded with two tanker trucks. The Lumberton department sent a ladder truck, and Saddletree sent a pumper tanker and a high-volume tanker.
“The problem with a fire on the interstate is you don’t have hydrants,” Windom said.
The firefighters were able to save the rig’s cab, he said. All but one of the nine passenger cars being hauled on the rig were destroyed.
It was about an hour after arriving on the scene before the fire was contained and they were able to move the firefighting vehicles aside enough to open one southbound lane to traffic, Windom said.
The firefighters stayed on the scene until after rig was towed away to St. Pauls, he said. All the rig’s tires exploded so the rig had to be jacked up and new tires installed before it could be towed. The rig’s cab was able to be driven away.
“I’ve been a firefighter since 2006, 11 almost 12 years, and never had a car carrier with all the cars on it on fire,” Windom said.
Windom said he received calls later from Lakewood Estates residents asking about booms they heard. The fire chief told them it was the sound of the rigs’ tires exploding. One Northwood’s firefighter told him the glow from the fire could be seen by people living three miles away on Barker Ten Mile Road.
Trooper Connor said he still is trying to verify ownership of the rig and its cargo. The fire remains under investigation.
Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974.