I-15 reopens in Midvale with temporary fix, but long-term repair needed after massive tanker fire

Posted at 5:53 PM, Jan 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-19 19:53:23-05

MIDAVLE, Utah -- After a long night and following day of work, UDOT has fully reopened I-15 near 7200 South.

The area was shut down for hours Thursday night after a tanker carrying 10,000 gallons of fuel became engulfed in flames. Officials said they believe its brakes sparked the flames.

The truck is disintegrated and the road underneath it was left extremely damaged.

“The panels were burned pretty extensively. The intense heat, the amount of gas and fuel that spilled, it caused significant damage to the road there," said UDOT Spokesman John Gleason.

Flames were so hot, it caused the concrete to pop, according to UDOT's West District Engineer Shawn Lambert.

"It's about the first two inches of concrete sprawled out," Lambert said. "It looks like a giant pot hole over a radius of a good 50 feet."

With this much damage, UDOT crews worked on the road surface all night, hoping to get as much work done as they could before the morning commute. By then, the freeway only had two lanes open for traffic, which became more congested than usual in this area during the morning drive.

Their next concern was opening lanes before the evening commute and and the expected inclement weather complicated driving conditions.

By 1:30 p.m. Friday, UDOT was able to open all lanes to traffic with a temporary fix in place.

“We counted about 15 panels that are pretty much destroyed, so we’ve got a temporary fix out there now," Lambert said. "We were able to get a contractor who was working in that area on board quickly last night to do some temporary patching with this – it’s a high strength, fast curing mortar.”

The plan is for the temporary fix to hold for several weeks until UDOT can put in a permanent solution. The plan is to replace it with new concrete panels during times when traffic is lighter in the area.

Miraculously, the driver made it out safely. James Smith, the driver of the Jackson Oil truck, told FOX 13 he is OK and appreciates the phone calls and well wishes from everyone who has asked about him.

Tony Stone, President of Jackson Energy, released this statement about the fire involving their vehicle:

“While Thursday night’s tanker fire on I-15 caused significant disruption to thousands of drivers in the Salt Lake area, we at Jackson Energy are extremely thankful that no one was injured. Our tanker truck was on a regularly scheduled route transporting fuel from a terminal in North Salt Lake City to a station in Sandy when a motorist alerted the driver to an issue with the rear axle. The driver immediately pulled over and followed safety protocols to put out the flames with the on-board fire extinguisher, but was unable to and called 911. While obviously shaken, our driver was not injured. The truck’s most recent maintenance report on December 17 showed no defects. We’re cooperating with Highway Patrol on the investigation, and have narrowed down the possible cause to a mechanical issue with the brake or an axle seal. Due to the extreme heat of the fire, we may never know the cause. We are also coordinating with Utah Department of Transportation to facilitate the hazardous waste cleanup through our certified contractor. Jackson Energy is appreciative of the professionalism and dedication of the Utah Highway Patrol, area fire departments, Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Air National Guard for their quick response and actions to keep everyone safe.”