Update, 2:10 p.m. Authorities say multiple lanes of westbound Interstate 80 will remain closed for at least one more hour after a big rig trailer caught fire shortly before 1 p.m.
According to a statement issued by CHP spokesman Officer Sean Wilkenfeld, the CHP began to receive numerous 911 calls at 12:45 p.m. that a big rig was on fire on I-80 westbound near Gilman Street in Berkeley.
Wilkenfeld said, initially, the driver of the big rig was unaware of the fire, “until other motorists began honking and getting the driver’s attention.”
He immediately pulled over and got out of the vehicle.
CHP Oakland officers, as well as firefighters from Berkeley and Albany, were dispatched to the scene and confirmed that the trailer was on fire. A Sig alert has been issued and the fire has been contained. Firefighters are on scene to monitor the situation.
As of 1:50 p.m., three lanes of the freeway were closed on westbound I-80 at Gilman. The Gilman Street off-ramp was also closed for a time because firefighters are using a water source off the freeway and have hoses across the ramp.
Said Wilkenfeld in a prepared statement: “We expect multiple lanes to remain closed for at least another hour while a heavy duty tow truck responds to the scene and tows away the big rig trailer. Luckily, no injuries were sustained during this incident.”
As of 2:10 p.m., the CHP had re-opened the off-ramp and one lane of traffic, leaving the two right-most lanes closed.
Original post, 1:15 p.m. Authorities have responded to Interstate 80 in Berkeley between Gilman Street and University Avenue for a big rig that caught fire and became fully engulfed in flames, according to initial reports.
The fire was reported at 12:45 p.m. to the CHP’s Golden Gate division.
According to preliminary, unconfirmed, information the big rig had pulled to the right hand side of the highway, and the driver had been able to get out of the vehicle.
The driver was reported to have been pulling a white box trailer with the big rig, and had attempted to disconnect the two after pulling over.
As of 12:46 p.m., the trailer was described as “fully engulfed,” and local firefighters from Albany and Berkeley had been called to the scene.
No other vehicles were reported to be involved.
As of 12:49 p.m., the driver was using a fire extinguisher to try to put out the fire, according to preliminary reports.
At 1:05 p.m., the CHP said it would issue a traffic notification, called a “Sig alert,” that three lanes of the freeway were closed. A tow truck was dispatched. (Those alerts are generally issued for “any unplanned event that causes the closing of one lane of traffic for 30 minutes or more,” according to the Sig alert website.)
At 1:10 p.m., a CHP spokesman confirmed that three lanes of I-80 are blocked (lanes 3, 4 and 5) westbound on I-80 east of University due to a trailer on fire between Gilman and University. He said there had been no traffic collision.
Traffic appeared be be heavy on both sides of the freeway in the area of the fire.
According to Sigalert.com, as of 12:50 p.m., the roadway had been reduced to two lanes on Interstate-80 between Central Avenue and Gilman Street. Traffic is stopped, and delays up to 30 minutes have been predicted.
As of 1:15 p.m., the Gilman Street freeway exit was blocked.
Just before 1:30 p.m., the CHP decided to extend the Sigalert for at least an hour.
511.org has advised drivers to avoid the area altogether, citing the following CHP alert: “Vehicle fire & Severe traffic alert on I-80 Westbound before University Ave (Berkeley). Right and center lanes closed. Avoid the area.”
Berkeleyside will update this story as more information becomes available.