Tractor-Trailer Fire Closes I-81 Creates Traffic Nightmare

SHIPPENSBURG, PA- Tuesday night around 5p.m. in the Northbound Lanes of Interstate 81, towards Carlisle a tractor trailer caught fire while carrying 8 fiberglass pools. This created a traffic nightmare, as originally only one lane was getting by then until fire crews arrived on the scene.

Firefighters from Shippensburg, Walnut Bottom, and Penn Township responded to the scene and were met with “Impossible” Conditions according to radio scanner traffic. Firefighter arrived on scene with the trailer fully on fire and immediately requested PA State Police to shut down I-81 Northbound.

This resulted in all traffic below the King Street (PA 174) Exit being forced off in the area of Walnut Bottom Road, near the Rodeway Inn and either through Shippensbug Borough, or through the Village of Lees Cross Roads.

The typical commute from Chambersburg to Shippensburg via I-81 is typically 15 minutes, with rush hour traffic, typically between 20-25 minutes. However last night the commute from US-30 (Lincoln Way) in Chambersburg to the King Street exit in Shippensburg took 3.5 hours to complete, much to the distress of motorists.

Traffic was being detoured as early as the Maryland State Line, to take US-11 (Molly Pitcher Highway) through Shippensburg, north to Carlisle and then rejoining I-81 in the city of Carlisle.

A US Express truck driver who declined to use his name said the following: “I have seen traffic jams from accidents, but I have never seen a traffic nightmare like this. Now not to mention the severe storms coming in shortly, is going to turn this into a royal mess.”

The truck driver then stated his already 18-hour drive from Shippensburg to Maine was now going to take longer because of the fire, he also said that he was not even supposed to take I-81 originally, but an accident on the turnpike told him to take I-81 to meet the PA Turnpike in Carlisle.

Traffic was being sent off at the PA 696 (Olde Scotland Road) Exit of I-81 and then down Olde Scotland to Fayette Street to downtown Shippensburg. Creating a nightmare for local commuters and emergency service personnel. What is typically a 10 minute drive from P&G Warehouse on 9300 Olde Scotland Road to Shippensburg University, was taking 45-minutes to an hour.

Domino’s Delivery Driver Dayton Buhrman said this: “It’s brutal, people want their food in 30-40 minutes, even to campus. Yet it is taking us 30-40 minutes to just get to a place that takes 10 minutes max. It’s stressful and the store itself is losing money.”

PennDOT was working on patching the road at approximately 10pm, where the truck fire was. They were patching the road as a direct result of the heat and intense flames from the truck fire. I-81 itself was reopened at approximately 2:45am after PA State Police, PennDOT and local officials deemed that there were no other hazards surrounding the fire.

At this time there are no residual delays as a result of the fire and I-81 is reopened and flowing normally, as well as King Street in downtown Shippensburg.

BILL ROLLIN

WSYC NEWS DESK