Freeway explosion: Tanker truck fire so hot it exploded concrete
"The explosion most witnesses heard was the concrete exploding from the extreme heat," said Montebello Fire Chief Tim Wessell. Water in the concrete boiled, then popped, he said.
Wessell said the truck driver reported his rear trailer ablaze before he came to a stop under the Paramount Boulevard bridge. The fire escalated, causing extremely high temperatures and he was forced to abandon the truck before he could pull completely off to the side of the freeway.
The driver and a passenger were able to escape, authorities said.
A California Highway Patrol official said a passing motorist saw the flames and called 911.
"Traffic isn't going to flow through here anytime soon," said CHP Officer Sal Gomez. "The bridge's integrity is something of great concern."
Wessell said Caltrans officials will get in to examine the bridge once firefighters and hazmat experts determine it is safe. Several times since the initial blaze, the tank has reignited, he said.
Montebello City Manager Larry Kosmont said the Paramount Boulevard bridge substructure has damage but it will take some time to assess.
Eastbound traffic is being rerouted to Garfield and Wilcox avenues while westbound traffic is being redirected to San Gabriel Boulevard.
CHP officials suggest that commuters take the 10 Freeway or side streets such as Beverly and Whittier boulevards to get past the accident.
-- Richard Winton, Ari Bloomekatz and Angel Jennings