Fire Closes Tunnel Between Virginia, West Virginia

Smoke could be seen for miles as a tractor-trailer burned in the East River Mountain Tunnel Friday. The 5,400-foot tunnel carries Interstate 77 between Virginia and West Virginia.

“A tunnel fire is similar to a basement fire,”  Bluefield Fire Departmen Jeff Warden told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “It’s lots of heat, lots of smoke. The outcome came out pretty good, but it was a consolidated effort that put water on the fire. It was also a joint effort of emergency service agencies from both states.”?

Fire crews from Green Valley-Glenwood Volunteer Fire Department, East River Volunteer Fire Department, Bland Fire Department, and  the Rocky Gap Volunteer Fire Department worked with Bluefield crews to contain the fire.

Firefighters got about 600 feet inside the tunnel, but heavy smoke and heat forced them to retreat.

The fire was reported around 3:10 p.m. in the northbound lanes and traffic was backed up for miles.

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Two firefighters were taken to Bluefield Regional Medical Center for smoke inhalation, according to the Daily Telegraph.

A ventilation system helped clear the tunnel of smoke.

Officials continued to investigate the cause of the fire Saturday morning and check the tunnel for damage.