Collision of two semi-trailers closes Hwy. 3 west of Osoyoos, starts wildfire

By on July 3, 2014
Traffic on Hwy. 3 was blocked in both directions as police ordered drivers to wait or turn back many truck drivers waited rather than try to turn their trucks around. (Richard McGuire photo)

Traffic on Hwy. 3 was blocked in both directions as police ordered drivers to wait or turn back many truck drivers waited rather than try to turn their trucks around. (Richard McGuire photo)

A collision between two westbound semi-trailers last Wednesday evening near Spotted Lake west of Osoyoos closed Hwy. 3 in both directions and started a wildfire in nearby brush.

One driver was injured and was airlifted to hospital, but his injuries were not believed to be life threatening, said Osoyoos RCMP Cpl. Jason Bayda. The other driver received minor bumps.

The highway was closed for several hours, but reopened later in the evening.

Heavy equipment was used to clear up the wreckage and spilled timber.

Bombers and helicopters from the provincial Wildfire Branch combatted the flames on the hills to the southeast of the accident from the air.

The accident occurred shortly before 5 p.m., said Bayda. Firefighters from Osoyoos were also called to the scene.

Bayda said one truck, a lumber truck, was fully loaded and was climbing the hill slowly. The second truck, which wasn’t loaded, attempted to overtake the loaded truck near the end of the passing lane, but side swiped it.

“Immediately he burst into flames,” said Bayda. “The cab of the truck flew off of it with the driver in it and it was in flames. The driver luckily was able to get out.”

Bayda said the other driver also got out safely.

“The driver of the vehicle that is believed to have caused the collision suffered what looks like lacerations and possible broken bones, he’s been airlifted out but it doesn’t look life by threatening,” Bayda said.

The driver, a 46-year-old Kelowna man was taken by air ambulance to Kelowna General Hospital for treatment, the RCMP said in a news release.

“The other driver is fine, sore muscles stuff like that but nothing serious,” Bayda added.

Analysis of the scene is ongoing to determine the causal factors in the crash, but alcohol is not suspected, the RCMP said.

Osoyoos Fire Chief Rick Jones said two Osoyoos fire trucks were dispatched with 10 people to extinguish the blaze on the highway and report to provincial fire officials on the extent of the wildfire.

“We were there on behalf of B.C. Forest Service,” said Jones. “They hired our equipment to go up and put the fire out on the road and just assess what was happening with the wildfire. Because we’re closer, it’s easier for them to ask us what’s going on.”

It took until around 7 p.m. to extinguish the fire in the trucks and lumber, Jones said.

The provincial Wildfire Management Branch deployed seven ground personnel initially and brought in a helicopter and two air tankers to control the blaze, which briefly threatened one residence.

“It was fairly close to some structures, but none of them were lost to the fire,” said Kayla Pepper, a spokesperson for the Kamloops Fire Centre.

Pepper said the fire grew to 9.4 hectares before it was contained.

It was monitored by five personnel overnight. Throughout Thursday, 20 firefighters continued mopping up and making sure the fire was fully extinguished.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

A helicopter hauls water to combat the burning wildfire caused by the crash. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter hauls water to combat the burning wildfire caused by the crash. (Richard McGuire photo)

Ambulance, police and firefighters all arrived at the scene. (Richard McGuire photo)

Ambulance, police and firefighters all arrived at the scene. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter hauls water to combat the burning wildfire caused by the crash. (Richard McGuire photo)

A helicopter hauls water to combat the burning wildfire caused by the crash. (Richard McGuire photo)

Vehicles wait for Hwy. 3 to be reopened. (Richard McGuire photo)

Vehicles wait for Hwy. 3 to be reopened. (Richard McGuire photo)

Firefighters and others clean up debris, some of it still smoldering, after the crash of two semi-trailers. (Richard McGuire photo)

Firefighters and others clean up debris, some of it still smoldering, after the crash of two semi-trailers. (Richard McGuire photo)

Firefighters and others clean up debris, some of it still smoldering, after the crash of two semi-trailers. (Richard McGuire photo)

Firefighters and others clean up debris, some of it still smoldering, after the crash of two semi-trailers. (Richard McGuire photo)

Firefighters and others clean up debris, some of it still smoldering, after the crash of two semi-trailers. (Richard McGuire photo)

Firefighters and others clean up debris, some of it still smoldering, after the crash of two semi-trailers. (Richard McGuire photo)

An Osoyoos fire truck arrives at the scene to offer assistance. (Richard McGuire photo)

An Osoyoos fire truck arrives at the scene to offer assistance. (Richard McGuire photo)

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