DETROIT (WWJ) – A tanker fire on I-75 in downtown Detroit sent thick, black smoke into the air — briefly shutting down the freeway.

The tanker caught fire just after 9 a.m. Tuesday on southbound I-75 before I-375, at the bottom of the ramp. It took crews about 40 minutes to extinguish the fire.

READ MORE: Michigan Matters: Pistons’ Rob Murphy on Helping His Hometown

Jim Thomas, a truck driver for more than 30 years, was behind the wheel. Thomas said he was taking the empty tanker back to the Marathon Refinery in Detroit and was caught in stop-and-go traffic from I-94 to I-75 when a tire blew on the back axle of his truck.

“We couldn’t get over because there was cars next to us so we pulled forward and then we rolled right off to the side of the road and by then I could see in the mirrors that the tire was on fire,” Thomas told WWJ’s Ron Dewey. “We both, I have a co-driver with me, and we both jumped out. We both have fire extinguishers on both sides of the truck, small ones, and we sprayed the tire but it wasn’t enough to do the job.”

(credit: Ron Dewey/WWJ Newsradio 950)

(credit: Ron Dewey/WWJ Newsradio 950)

Thomas said he’s not sure what happened because his employer, Martin Trucking of Flint, takes exceptional care of their fleet.

READ MORE: Ribs RnB Music Festival Kicks Off This Weekend In Downtown Detroit

“This truck was just about a year ago completely rebuilt. It was in perfect shape,” he said. “This truck runs day and night when we’re working good, you know, and different drivers drive it. Everything was working fine. I just don’t get it. I am very picky on vehicle inspection and that truck got inspected very well this morning before it left the yard. If there would have been any indication to me that there was something wrong, then I would have gotten off the side of the road or got it off the highway somewhere — but there was no indication whatsoever.”

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said no one was injured in the fire, which appears to have been caused by a mechanical problem.

Motorists are advised to avoid the area. The both directions of the freeway have reopened to traffic, although lane restrictions remain in place as crews continue to clean up the scene.

(MDOT Traffic Cam)

(MDOT Traffic Cam)

MORE NEWS: Judge Says Michigan Gov. Whitmer Won't Have To Testify In Abortion Lawsuit

For the latest from the roads, stay with WWJ Newsradio 950 during Traffic and Weather on the 8s, 24-hours a day. Check for recent incidents now on the CBS Detroit Traffic Page.