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Truck fire jams interstate traffic

Traffic jammed up severely but no one was hurt Tuesday nightwhen a burning 18-wheeler sent fireballs into the sky on Interstate55.

Sgt. Rusty Boyd of the Mississippi Highway Patrol said trafficwas rerouted onto Highway 51 for more than two hours whileemergency personnel from several departments doused the flames onthe 2001 Freightliner, which burned to the ground after stoppingfor a blowout on the right-front tire. The fire caused a completestoppage of northbound traffic at mile 31 beginning at 6:26p.m.

Ramzi Express, Inc., driver Mohsin Nahdi, 43, of Dearborn,Mich., and his wife, Erica, 26, escaped the fire and were unharmed,Boyd said. He said Nahdi used a fire extinguisher on the burningtire as soon as he stopped the rig but the fire quickly spread tothe cab and trailer.

“It’s just the nature of the beast,” Boyd said. “We’ve hadvehicles that people stop to check something, they smell something,and when they get to the side of the road the vehicle just burnsup.”

Vince Graves, who lives on nearby Calvary Drive, was at homewatching the afternoon news and weather when he heard a pair ofexplosions and rushed out to the nearby overpass to see what hadhappened.

“I heard a loud boom, like a cannon going off. It shook myhouse,” he said. “About two or three minutes later, it did itagain. When we came up here and looked down, the fire was at thetop of the trees. It made a heck of a noise, heck of a noise.”

Boyd said the truck was carrying a load of produce from Texas toCanada.

He said it is unclear what kind of trailer was being used. Thetrailer may have been a refrigerated trailer carrying its own fuelsupply, he said.

Passersby and onlookers watched the burning scene with alarm,but there was never any reason to worry.

“It was big, but it’s actually not,” Boyd said. “Any timeanything happens to an 18-wheeler, it can be a major cleanup.”