Big rig catches fire on Highway 99 after head-on crash with pickup

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comAugust 27, 2013 

— A big rig caught fire about 5 p.m. Monday after a head-on collision on Highway 99 near Bradbury Road, shutting down the northbound lanes of the freeway for more than two hours, the California Highway Patrol said.

No fatalities were reported, the CHP said, but all parties involved sustained minor injuries.

CHP spokesman Jason Schoonhoven said the crash north of Delhi occurred after a white Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck heading south on Highway 99 crossed over the center divider and into oncoming traffic.

The pickup collided with four other vehicles, including the commercial big rig, which was carrying orange juice.

It's unknown which cars were struck first or why the driver crossed the divider, Schoonhoven said.

"After the collision, the big rig's truck and trailer caught fire and became fully engulfed," Schoon-hoven said.

All northbound lanes of traffic were shut down Monday night, with traffic heading north diverted onto Golden State Boulevard in Turlock, he said.

After extinguishing the fire, a towing company worked on moving the big rig off the roadway, according to Schoonhoven.

It's unclear if drugs or alcohol were factors in the crash, he said.

Merced County Cal Fire Battalion Chief Gabriel Santos said it took about 30 minutes for crews to contain the fire. Two engines and 12 firefighters were sent to the scene.

Additional help was requested from the Turlock City Fire Department, but it was cancelled after the blaze was controlled.

Santos said it was fortunate that the big rig contained nonhazardous materials.

"When the accident occurred, that's a very busy traffic time on Highway 99," Santos said. "So, we're very grateful it wasn't a hazardous material collision because that would have shut down the highway and created a hazardous environment for neighboring communities."

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or

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