SACRAMENTO — A truck carrying hay caught fire Monday on southbound Highway 99 on Monday afternoon, prompting a closure at 47th Avenue in South Sacramento. Most lanes of the highway remained closed for about eight hours, causing a traffic headache for drivers throughout the region.
The speed limit is 65 mph on this part of Highway 99, but no gas pedal could push anything close to that for hours Monday.
“About an hour or so,” said Carlos De Leon as he described how long he’d been stuck in traffic.
That kind of delay near Mack Road in Sacramento was all due to 50,000 pounds of hay that burned from early afternoon — right through the evening commute, or “non-rush hour,” as it turned out to be.
“I don’t know. It’s crazy,” sighed Johnny Gilley from the driver’s seat as he inched along behind a semi.
Cristobal Machuca, the “K & R” truck driver who spotted flames shooting out from his load around 1:30 Monday afternoon can only guess at what went wrong after he picked up the hay in Williams.
“Maybe somebody throwing a cigar or something. I don’t know,” he said.
“We’ve had to close down three lanes of traffic. We had all of them closed down for a while to get all the emergency personnel in place,” said Officer Michael Bradley of the California Highway Patrol.
As big of a nightmare as this all turned out to be on the highway, Machuca said he tried hard to contain the situation.
“I didn’t want to pull all the way to side ’cause thought there might be houses right here … and even you can see the wall … it got all burned.”
That quick-thinking from the driver did keep this disaster from spreading, but even stationary, it was a formidable opponent for firefighters and drivers alike.
Nancy Riordan was trying to get to Elk Grove Boulevard.
“Very frustrating. Why don’t they have firetrucks up there? Why can’t they put a hay fire out?” she questioned.
“The unfortunate part is there’s a high water tension, and so it doesn’t soak into the hay very well. So we’re trying to apply as much foam as possible so it’ll soak into the hay, but again, it just repels off the hay, so it’s a very laborious process,” said Metro Fire Battalion Chief Rick Griggs.
That was just one of the concerns for crews on scene.
Heavy equipment had to be brought in to break up the hay bales, so they could even get to the fire.
An all out assault on flames — forced to be done piece by piece and all the while drivers nibbling at the route their cars normally speedily devour.
Machuca has only been hauling hay for about two months.
He says he’s never seen anything like what happened Monday.
An exact cause for the fire has not yet been determined. Luckily no one was hurt in the fire.