Traffic backed up for miles and smoke blackened the sky during the Friday afternoon rush hour after the fuel tanks of a big rig caught fire along the north 5 Freeway, spilling diesel fuel. No one was seriously injured.
A Canadian driver saw fire on his fuel tank and pulled over beneath the Crown Valley Parkway overpass around 5:15 p.m.
"He told me something was smelling inside," said Sikhdeeb Sandhu, who was seated in the truck while his brother-in-law drove.
"He saw fire on the fuel tanks."
Sandhu said the truck was otherwise empty. The two men from Mississauga, Ontario, were driving from San Diego to Oxnard.
The Canadians' passports and wallets were destroyed in the flames as two 150-gallon saddle tanks of diesel fuel burned, said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Chris Johnson.
A SigAlert was declared at 5:15 p.m. and, about half an hour later, CHP units called for a fuel spill cleanup. All traffic lanes but one were closed at 6:30 p.m.
Workers began removing the melted frame of the truck from the street around 7 p.m.
"The metal grate melted, fused into the ground," worker Mark Sashlenou said, pointing to the truck frame covered in ash. The smell of diesel fuel carried at leasts 100 yards away.
The ground where the truck frame burned was still hot at 7:15 p.m., Sashlenou said.
The spilled diesel fuel will be cleaned by a CalTrans contractor, Johnson said.