FAIRFIELD — A big-rig fire stalled eastbound traffic on Interstate 80 on Monday afternoon, sending a black swath of smoke over the city as the truck and its cargo burned.
The incident happened behind the Gateway Courtyard shopping center when the big rig ran off the road.
The California Highway Patrol got a call about 3:25 p.m. reporting the fire. The driver managed to get out and only had minor injuries, said CHP Lt. Steve West .
A severe traffic alert was issued at 3:31 p.m. with all lanes closed. Traffic also slowed on the westbound side.
Montana Meyerhoffer, 15, Dakota Meyerhoffer, 16, Cameron Oliver, 15, and Alec Heise, 15, were hanging out at the Second Street park when they saw black smoke fill the sky.
They rode their bikes and scooter across Travis Boulevard and went behind the building that houses Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Barnes and Noble Booksellers.
The four said they arrived before emergency responders and saw flames almost as tall as the building.
“There was black smoke,” Montana Meyerhoffer said. “You could hardly see the building.”
“We heard a big pop,” Oliver said.
Heise grabbed a few pictures on his cellphone before the scene was secured.
“I was worried the guy was dead,” Dakota Meyerhoffer said of the big rig’s driver.
The young men said they had a chance to interact with the driver and described him as having bloodied arms and cut on his face.
Two lanes of traffic were opened about 3:45 p.m. The Travis Boulevard onramp was re-opened shortly before 4 p.m. The fire was reported under control about 4:25 p.m. the right lane remained closed at 4:45 p.m. All lanes were open shortly after 6 p.m.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries was evacuated. Initial reports indicated that Barnes and Noble Booksellers was evacuated, but it was not.
West said driver inattention caused the crash. The big rig veered to the right to avoid hitting slow traffic in front of him, West said.
The crash and its aftermath created a rush-hour backup that by 6 p.m. saw eastbound vehicles lined up over the hill to a point near American Canyon, and spilled freeway traffic onto surface streets in and around Fairfield.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.