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Two Motor Vehicle Collisions Shuts Down I-70 at the 29mm

By WILLIAM KING, Senior Correspondent | August 07, 2020 | MARYLAND

Story No. 082120105

On the afternoon of August 7th, the Washington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC) received reports of a multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 70 in the area of the 29-mile marker. Emergency crews from Funkstown Volunteer Fire Company and the Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway were alerted for the call at 14:47 hours. Units responding were advised that they had up to 7-9 vehicles involved with unconfirmed injuries. With multiple vehicles involved, additional Medic Units from Community Rescue Service and Williamsport Fire and EMS were started to assist. Lieutenant Willie Vazquez from Halfway arrived first to confirm he had multiple vehicles involved and established I-70 Command.

Emergency crews were able to quickly evaluate the scene finding that they had no serious injuries. Command reported he had no entrapments and was holding the incident to two Medic Units only and was releasing the rest. With in seconds of the report to the ECC, units working the scene witnessed a second accident in the opposite lane of Interstate 70. Personnel were jolted by the sound of the skidding rubber as they looked up to watch a tractor trailer on the east bound side of the interstate strike the guardrail and erupt into flames. Firefighters quickly sprang into action rushing to the aid of the tractor trailer driver who was already self-extricating himself as Command reported to the ECC that they needed a second assignment started for a second vehicle accident on the East Bound side with fire. The fire appeared to be rapidly growing so Command requested a Tanker Task Force started on the assignment.

Crews operating on the West Bound side halted their operations to assist with the East Bound accident that appeared more serious. As Funkstown crews worked to access the East Bound Lane, the ECC started additional units to the East Bound incident as West Bound Command had crews deploy a Leader Line off of Halfway’s Engine 261 along with a High-Rise Pack to reach the burning tractor trailer and extinguish the blaze. As units worked to gain control, Funkstown’s Fire Chief Eric Fraley arrived, and established East Bound I-70 Command and Halfway’s Deputy Chief Jamie Drawbaugh assumed West Bound Command as Lieutenant Vazquez was assisted with the East Bound Operations. Firefighters quick actions on the East Bound incident kept the fire from spreading and the incident from being much worse than what it could have been.

Interstate 70 was brought to a complete standstill in both directions for several hours as emergency crews worked both incidents. No serious injuries were reported with either accident that afternoon. One motorist involved with the West Bound accident was transported to Meritus Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. No other motorists involved required transport to the hospital, but one firefighter was transported to Meritus Medical Center for evaluation after suffering a heat related emergency.

The interstate was shut down for several hours causing severe traffic delays throughout the area. Washington County Fire Police and Hagerstown City Auxiliary worked together to shut down multiple ramps for I-70 and handled traffic control in the Funkstown area while crews were operating on I-70. West Bound I-70 was able to be re-opened around 17:00 hours, while East Bound remained closed until all hazards were able to be removed around 19:00 hours that evening. Both accidents are currently being investigated by the Maryland State Police.

Emergency personnel on the call responded from the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Company (Co.10), Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway (Co.26), Community Rescue Service (Co.75), Williamsport Fire & EMS (Co.2), Mt. Aetna Volunteer Fire Company (Co.16), The Community Volunteer Fire Company of District 12 (Co.12), Washington County Special Operations 20, Washington County Division of Emergency Services, Washington County Emergency Support Services (Rehab 25), Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association Safety Officer, Washington County Fire Police, Hagerstown City Police Auxiliary.

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