Fire on hay truck ties up Highway 14 traffic (with video)

By Emily Gillespie and Tom Vogt

Published:

Updated: August 20, 2013, 9:18 PM

 
Grass fire

A load of hay bales on a truck caught fire Tuesday afternoon in Washougal, creating a blaze that affected traffic on state Highway 14 for about five hours.

“We know it started in the stack (of bales) that the driver was carrying,” said Camas-Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart.

Swinhart described the possibility of an exhaust pipe starting the fire as a “reasonable conclusion.”

Swinhart said that truck driver Daniel Merriman, 42, of Yacolt, realized the load on his 40-foot flatbed was burning and pulled over.

“He attempted to dump his load, was only partially successful, and ended up with the fire getting into the truck, consuming the truck and burning up the hay bales,” Swinhart said.

The city of Washougal provided a backhoe-loader to separate the bales from the truck, a 1988 Kenworth.

Leaking fuel spread into grass, causing a narrow strip about 200 feet long to burn along the westbound lane near Milepost 17.

About 20 firefighters responded from Camas-Washougal, East County Fire & Rescue and the Vancouver Fire Department.

No injuries were reported, but one firefighter experienced heat exhaustion during the two-hour effort, Swinhart said.

Traffic was halted in both directions between 27th Street and 32nd Street while crews extinguished the fully engulfed truck, near the Pendleton Woolen Mills.

Eventually, the eastbound portion of the highway was used to accommodate traffic in both directions. Eastbound traffic was using the eastbound shoulder while westbound vehicles were using the eastbound lane, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Will Finn.

The westbound lane was closed from 32nd Street to 27th Street until all lanes were reopened at about 7:40 p.m., Finn said — almost five hours after the fire started.

View a video of the fire on The Columbian's YouTube Channel.