A tractor trailer fire halted traffic on Interstate 85 for both directions near Exit 164 (Old N.C. 86) around noon Monday. The N.C. Highway Patrol quickly began blocking both directions of the interstate. Orange County Police and Fire Departments were also on the scene, as were members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
A long trail of thick, black smoke winding down to the highway could be seen from miles away. At 12:34, the sound of two explosions could be heard from near the wreckage.
“The tractor trailer was carrying chemicals,” said a firefighter walking toward the underpass of Churton Street at I-85. “We’re just going to let it burn out and do its thing.”
By 12:46, all traffic headed north and south on I-85 was clear near the fire.
A paramedic on standby near the accident could not say whether there were any injuries or fatalities.
Businesses, including gas stations, fast food restaurants and a Microtel, and residents near the scene were evacuated as a burning chemical smell and ash permeated the air.
By 1 p.m., much of the smoke had stopped, though fire trucks continued to arrive at the scene. An hour later, officials determined fumes from the truck fire did not pose a danger, and people were allowed to return to their homes.
The road is expected to open by 3 p.m. The N.C. Highway Patrol is investigating the incident.