United Petroleum Transport driven by Kerry Bell was hauling 8,500 gallons of gasoline when he had a front tire blowout causing a fire which spread quickly into the cab of the 18-wheeler. The huge fire burned about three hours according to neighbor and witness, Butch Burns.
The black cloud of smoke could be seen for miles in Delta and Lamar counties shutting down State Highway 24 near Farm-to-Market 198. Bell escaped the flames unharmed.
Delta County Sheriff Ricky Smith stated there were several first responders including law enforcement, volunteer fire departments, and the L3 hazmat crew at the scene. They had to create a perimeter around the fire for fear of an explosion.
“The fire was so hot it was literally burning the cement and causing it to pop and send debris into the air,” said Sheriff Ricky Smith.
Texas Department of Transportation was still working on the scene Thursday morning.
“I am extremely proud of our firefighters, Sheriff, deputies, EMS, TxDOT, Benson Brother’s Wrecker Service, and TxDPS for the prompt response and outstanding work to make sure the incident was brought under control as quick as it could be considering the circumstances,” said Tanner Crutcher, Cooper Volunteer Assistant Fire Chief. “I want to extend a special thank you to L3 Mission Integration, their chain of command, and their firefighters for the use of an ARFF truck and their resources to bring the scene under control.”
He also extended appreciation to Hopkins County Fire Department, North Hopkins Fire Department, and Cumby Fire Department for their mutual aid response.