A tanker truck that was hauling 8,700 gallons of gasoline caught fire along Interstate 95 shortly before 5 a.m. Wednesday, causing a tremendous amount of smoke and flames and backing up traffic for miles.
The driver of the tanker truck believes the fire started when his brakes locked up.
The driver, Boyor Chew, smelled smoke, pulled the truck over to the side of the road between Route 212 and the Capital Beltway, and was able to escape before the tanker burst into flames. The tanker was carrying regular and premium gasoline.
Chew, of Odenton, Md., told News4 that he first saw one of the wheels on his truck on fire, so he jumped out as the fire started to spread. He said he had just filled up the tanker in Baltimore and was headed to a Silver Spring gas station about two miles from where the fire occurred.
Chew said he didn't have time to think, just to react.
"I was thinking about jumping onto the road for a minute, but the cars were going too fast," Chew said. "So I found a safe haven on the side of the road right before the split and just got out and ran."
He said he heard the compartments of the tanker and cab blow up one at a time.
Police had closed I-95 in both directions for safety concerns and heavy smoke conditions, but the northbound lanes reopened soon after. Two lanes of I-95 southbound have been reopened. All southbound traffic must exit onto the Inner Loop of the Beltway. Officials said the remaining southbound lanes could reopen in a few hours. An initial report showed that damage to the road surface wasn't as bad as first thought.
Prince George's Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Mark Brady said firefighters let most of the gasoline burn off before extinguishing the blaze.
Brady said there was not a threat of further explosions because the tanker was well ventilated.
Some cars on the highway near the burning truck were abandoned.
Brady said drivers moved back from the scene to give firefighters time to work.
No injuries were reported.
Chew said that he's thankful to be alive just one day before Thanksgiving.
"I think I need to go kiss my kids, mother, wife," he said. "You never know when your life will be over in a split second while doing your job ... just simply doing your job."
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