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Nighttime Accident Prompts Many Hours Traffic Standstill and Sleeping Roadside Motorists

This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

PIKE COUNTY, PA – (This report shared with permission of its author Chief Mike Bello, Milford Fire Department, PA)

At about 8 p.m. on July 1, 2024, the Milford Fire Department was dispatched to a tractor trailer fire on Interstate 84 West, in Pennsylvania, mile marker 41.3 – a construction zone. The accident caused a traffic standstill for dozens of motorists in both directions, from between four to five-and-a-half hours in some cases.

MFP’s initial responding units encountered the interstate at a standstill at mile marker 43. 33 Command units struggled their way forward and directed their backup Engine (E1) to Tunnel Road. With their primary Engine (E2), Tanker, and 26 Ambulance immobilized at mile marker 42.4, firefighters grabbed their gear and proceeded on foot to the scene of the incident, leaving their vehicle operators behind.

Once on scene, command found a tractor trailer had struck an impact attenuator entering a narrow section of the zone. The impact ruptured the tractor trailer’s fuel tank, spilling diesel fuel into the roadway. The tractor trailer was fully engulfed in flames, with the split rim tires exploding and flaming debris sent over the concrete divider and into the eastbound lane.

Responders stretched several hundred feet of supply and attack hoses from Tunnel Road up to the incident scene and began the initial fire suppression. With the interstate now closed in both directions, 39 Engine 1 was directed to travel west in the eastbound lane, and joined the suppression operation on arrival. 25 Tanker was directed to travel east in the westbound lane for water supply and suppression. 23 and 41 Tankers were directed to Tunnel Road to supply 33 E1.

Once suppression was complete, supervisory personnel from JD Morrissey, Inc. utilized a large front-end loader to push the remains of the tractor trailer off the roadway and into the construction area for removal, without disrupting the flow of traffic.

The eastbound lane was reopened at 22:32. With the westbound roadway clear of debris, PennDOT was tasked with applying sand to the roadway to absorb the fuel spill, and to inspect the roadway for any fire related damage. Spill control and inspection was completed at 00:31, and the westbound lane was reopened.


Shortly after the lanes were reopened, 33 Command units returning to station in the eastbound lane, noticed the westbound traffic was still at a standstill. It was found that drivers of multiple passenger and commercial vehicles were asleep in their vehicles and unaware that the road had been reopened. 33 Command units utilized their lights and sirens to attempt to wake the drivers. This tactic was effective to the area of mile marker 43.

Once 33 E2 and Tanker were cleared from the traffic and returning in the eastbound lanes, they encountered the same situation beyond mile marker 43 and implemented the same tactic. 33 fire units returned to station and were placed back in service at 01:30.

33 Command reentered the westbound interstate at mile marker 46 and found passenger and commercial vehicles occupying the left and right lanes as well as the right shoulder of the interstate. 33 Command was joined by the Pennsylvania State Police and made their way to the front of the traffic to find drivers asleep in their vehicles, blocking the open roadway. As traffic resumed flow, 33 Command proceeded to the next crossover and returned eastbound, only to find traffic was still not flowing at mile marker 45.

33 Command reentered the westbound interstate at mile marker 46 and again woke drivers, by utilizing lights and sirens and banging on doors and windows of the passenger and commercial vehicles. With 33 Command traveling west from the rear, and PSP traveling east in the westbound lanes from the front, traffic resumed normal flow at 02:54.

The Milford Fire department would like to thank the following agencies assisting with this incident. Westfall (39), Dingman (26), Blooming Grove (25), Greeley (23), Shohola (41), PSP, PennDOT, the Pike County Emergency Dispatchers, and JD Morrissey Inc. The driver of the tractor trailer escaped with no injuries. One Milford FD firefighter was injured during the initial fire suppression operation.

MFD Chief Mike Bello advised all motorists to use the utmost caution when traveling through any construction zone, and reminds all to never block the right hand shoulder during traffic stoppages. With 10 miles of Interstate 84 in MFD’s primary response area, he said it is critical to leave the right shoulder of any highway clear for emergency vehicles.

“We can't provide timely emergency service if we can't easily get to the incident. Emergency vehicles traveling against the normal flow of traffic, as was needed multiple times during this incident Monday night, is incredibly dangerous to both motorists and responders,” Bello noted.

Be safe, everyone!

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SHARON SIEGELSenior Correspondent

No information from the author.