DETROIT (WWJ) – Authorities say a stretch of I-75 in southwest Detroit has partially reopened to traffic after a tanker fire on the Rouge River Bridge.
The tanker, which was empty, caught fire just before 5 a.m. Friday on southbound I-75 at the midpoint of the bridge. Officials say the driver was able to escape the truck without injury.
State police say there may have been a mechanical issue with the brakes. Other circumstances surrounding the fire weren’t immediately clear.
Two southbound lanes were reopened to traffic before noon. Northbound I-75 was closed while the fire was extinguished, but re-opened to traffic just before 7 a.m.
Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Diane Cross said crews had to be extremely careful assessing the situation because officials weren’t exactly sure what kind of substance the tanker was carrying. As it turns out, the tanker was empty.
“It looks like the tanker was not carrying any fuel, is what I’m hearing from our maintenance guys up on the bridge, which means there was no additional burning of any material that could have made this much worse,” Cross told WWJ’s Laura Bonnell.
Crews now have to inspect the road and median for damages before the freeway can be re-opened.
“It’s been contained in just this one area but because it is a HAZMAT situation, we have to get approval by certain authorities that there isn’t going to be any problem with that material maybe getting into the drain system,” said Cross. “So, we want to make sure that whatever is maybe in the truck itself, not the tanker but the truck itself, has been property contained.”
Around 9:30 a.m., crews had removed the tanker from the freeway. Officials are now waiting on engineers to assess the road conditions.
The fire took place just above the Marathon Refinery and if the tanker was carrying a combustible substance, Cross said the results could have been devastating.
“The bad part, of course, is that it happened during our rush hour and it’s been quite unfortunate. But if people could realize the potential of how bad this could be, we are surrounded by gasoline, surrounded by flammable material, and we can’t thank Marathon enough for their quick response to come and put that (fire) out,” said Cross.
A cause of the fire remains under investigation.