A car and a tanker carrying a substantial amount of gas collided near Payson, Arizona. This resulted in a massive plume of flames and black smoke on SR 87. The incident occurred just before 6 p.m., causing significant disruption and concern. The Town of Payson Fire Department swiftly responded to the scene, where they discovered that the tanker was carrying 8,600 gallons of unleaded gas.
In an effort to prioritize safety, authorities decided to allow the gasoline to burn off while focusing on controlling the vegetation fire. Fortunately, there were no injuries reported among the responders or the drivers involved.
The crash occurred near Oxbow Estates, specifically at milepost 244 on SR 87. The resulting wildfire, named the Tanker Fire, quickly spread and scorched approximately 12.5 acres of land. Firefighters worked diligently to contain the flames, successfully achieving full containment by Saturday afternoon. However, the incident caused significant traffic congestion, with drivers, including a man named Eric Aguiar, being stuck in traffic for several hours as the fire raged on.
Eric Aguiar, who was driving on SR 87 at the time of the crash, described the scene as a massive ball of fire resembling a mushroom cloud. He and other drivers were stranded in traffic until late in the evening. The situation was particularly dangerous due to the involvement of fuel, toxic smoke, and smoldering asphalt. The fire even reached the guardrails, further complicating the response efforts for multiple agencies involved.
As of Sunday, traffic is now able to pass through the area in both directions, although some delays are expected. The northbound right lane remains closed, and the speed limit has been reduced between mileposts 244 and 245. Authorities urge drivers to stay updated on road conditions and exercise caution while traveling through the affected area.
The Tanker Fire not only posed a threat due to the wildfire itself but also due to the release of toxic smoke. Denise Croker, spokesperson for the Tonto National Forest, emphasized the danger faced by the residents and individuals in the vicinity.