Tanker Fire Brings Down I-95 Bridge

Fuel runoff reaches Delaware River
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2023 2:15 PM CDT
Section of I-95 Collapses After Tanker Burns Below
This screen grab from video provided by WPVI-TV/6ABC shows fire and smoke near the collapsed section of I-95 in Philadelphia.   (WPVI-TV/6ABC via AP)

An elevated section of I-95 in Philadelphia collapsed Sunday after a tanker truck carrying gasoline caught fire below it. The interstate was closed in both directions while crews battled the fire, CNN reports. "It looked like we had a lot of heat and heavy fire underneath the underpass," a fire official said at a news conference. Officials said it wasn't clear how the truck, which can carry 8,500 gallons, caught fire. The Coast Guard said that a sheen was visible on the surface of the Delaware River, and that the agency was dealing with runoff there, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Explosions in the northeast part of the city followed the bridge collapse, said a battalion chief for the Philadelphia Fire Department, possibly caused by the leaking fuel or damaged gas lines. "We have fire coming out of those manholes," said Derek Bowmer. A Drexel University engineering professor who examined photos said the girders holding up the bridge appear to be steel, not steel-reinforced concrete. "There is no concrete surrounding them," Amir Farnam told the Inquirer. "That means they are very susceptible to any sort of high temperature." Steel loses about half of its strength at 1,000 degrees, which he said the fire Sunday could well have reached.

But steel could have been the most logical choice, Farnam said. "You don't expect an outdoor structure to experience fire," he added. Philadelphia officials did not immediately report any injuries in the fire or collapse. A seven-mile stretch of the interstate was closed, as were streets around the site; heavy construction equipment will be needed to clear the debris. "Today is going to be a long day,” said Dominick Mireles, director of the city's Office of Emergency Management. (More Philadelphia stories.)

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