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Freeway explosion: Firefighters faced daunting task getting water

December 14, 2011 | 10:53 pm

A fireball erupts from the gasoline tanker truck.
Firefighters faced a daunting task supplying their trucks with water when they arrived at the scene of the tanker-truck inferno on the 60 Freeway, which shut down one of the nation's busiest motorist corridors.

Normally, fire hydrants are within close proximity of structures in residential and commercial neighborhoods, fire officials said.

On Wednesday afternoon, however, crews were forced to stretch hose hundreds of feet from hydrants on nearby streets to their trucks on the freeway, Montebello Fire Chief Tim Wessel told KTLA-TV Channel 5.

PHOTOS: Fiery crash on the 60 Freeway

They poured streams of water on the blaze and twisted wreckage until fire trucks with more-effective chemical foam retardant arrived.

The intense flames, stoked by about 8,800 gallons of gas on the truck, damaged the roadway and an overpass at Paramount Boulevard.

About a 10-mile stretch of the 60 between the 710 and 605 freeways will be closed for the Thursday morning commute, the California Highway Patrol said Wednesday night.

The closure is likely to create nightmare conditions for the tens of thousand of motorists who use that stretch of freeway. Earlier in the day, commuters struggled with traffic-clogged freeways and jammed surface streets as they tried to traverse the area.

About 220,000 vehicles travel the 60 daily in that area, the California Department of Transportation said.

The agency said it was unclear when the overpass would be repaired and when the freeway would reopen.

The truck driver and passenger escaped uninjured, officials said. The cause of the blaze was under investigation.

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-- Robert J. Lopez

twitter.com/LAJourno

Photo: A fireball erupts from the gasoline tanker truck.

  Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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