Updated after the jump: The 60 will remain closed for days, and the Paramount Boulevard overpass will need complete reconstruction.
Originally posted December 14 at 3 p.m.
About two-and-a-half hours after a tanker truck burst into flames on the 60 freeway through Montebello, parts of the vehicle were still on fire.
“The explosion that witnesses most likely heard was the concrete in the bridge exploding from the extreme heat,” CHP spokesman Saul Gomez said at a press conference minutes ago.
A who's-who of state and city departments are collaborating at the scene, trying to douse the flames in retardant while preventing both the chemicals inside the truck and those used to treat the vehicle fire from contaminating nearby waterways. “Our main concern is runoff,” says Gomez. He explains that crews are trying to keep the chemicals from running down the freeway gutters and into the ocean.
But commuters who travel through Montebello each rush hour may be a bit more concerned with the massive traffic snarl the accident has created.
The truck exploded just after noon. As of 3 p.m., the 60 was still closed in both directions between 710 in East L.A. and the 605 in El Monte. “Traffic conditions are extremely slow at the moment on freeways surrounding this area,” says Gomez, in the understatement of the century.
And Paramount Boulevard, which runs directly over the spot on the 60 where the truck turned into a billowing fireball (map below), isn't doing so good, either.
Caltrans, the Montebello Police Department, the L.A. County Sheriff and the CHP are all collaborating to evaluate the state of the bridge. Gomez doesn't sound too hopeful about that one opening anytime soon, either —
A who's-who of state and city departments are collaborating at the scene, trying to douse the flames in retardant while preventing…not surprising, considering it just got brutally assaulted by a cloud of thick, oily smoke the temperature of a thousand suns.
Only good news: The truck driver and his single passenger are OK.
Update, December 15, 9 a.m.: All eight miles of the 60 will remain closed well “into the weekend,” say Montebello city officials. Traffic in the area was a complete mess, both last night and this morning, as drivers tried to figure out how to semi-permanently dis-incorporate this giant block of unusable freeway from their commutes.
The Paramount Boulevard bridge, for its part, will soon look a little like the Sepulveda Pass during Carmageddon: The entire eastern half of the overpass will be demolished, says the CHP. And the demolition could eventually spread to the western half, as well.
City News Service reports that 200 firefighters rushed to the scene to drain 8,800 gallons of gas left in the tanker and “spray a foam-like substance on the fire. It was out by 1 p.m., then sprang up anew due to Santa Ana winds. (One fireman sustained a leg fracture amid the chaos.)
“The wind conditions were such, it was kind of pushing the fire to the south and to the east,'' Montebello Fire Chief Tim Wessel told City News. “Unfortunately, that put the main part of the fire further under the bridge, causing further damage to the bridge.''