A total of five tractor trailers, plus one SUV, were involved in series of crashes that closed down Interstate 5 on Saturday.
There were no life-threatening injuries reported, but four people were reportedly taken by ambulance to local hospitals, including the driver of a big rig that was consumed by fire.
California Highway Patrol Officer Hector Davila said that the first crash was between two big rigs, one that sideswiped another, as they headed north along Interstate 5 just north of Highway 132 shortly before 11 a.m. As they pulled over to assess the damage a third big rig rear-ended one of the tractor-trailers and caught fire.
Davila said that passers-by pulled the driver from the tractor as it caught fire. They also tried putting out the blaze with a fire extinguisher, but the tractor was soon engulfed by flames. Davila said that driver was rushed to San Joaquin County General Hospital with cuts and complaints of abdominal pain.
Crews from South County Fire Authority arrived to extinguish the blaze, and they had to clear out the trailer, filled with assorted retail products, to reach the portion of the trailer where the contents closest to the burning tractor had caught fire.
Meanwhile, as the big rig caught fire in the northbound lanes, traffic began to slow down in the southbound lanes. Davila noted that an SUV in the left lane was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, and as that big rig veered to the right it reportedly sideswiped another big rig.
It took about 1½ hours for the southbound lanes to reopen, and the northbound lanes remained closed for a while longer as South County Fire Authority Crews cleaned up spilled fuel and other hazardous materials from the northbound lanes.