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Tanker fire closes I-91, causes evacuations

ROCKY HILL – The driver of a tanker is okay after his truck caught fire early this morning.

 “We were just in shock to see the tanker on fire and the highway was closed,” says Matthew Lanciotto, who lives near the Orchard Road overpass in Rocky Hill, which overlooks where the truck pulled over. “It was crazy.”

The tanker truck caught fire on I-91 North just after 6 o’clock Sunday morning. People living nearby say they heard a few explosions that shook their houses.

“I look out the window and see all the smoke happening,” says another person who woke up to the explosion, Tom Saunders. “It was just scary.”

Even closer to the explosion are the Lexington Estates Condos, located right next to I-91 North. Elaine Lukas didn’t want to be on camera, but tells us she woke up to flames and smoke right outside her window.

 “Then I heard somebody yell “Get away! Get away!”  loud like people were talking on the highway,” says Lukas. “Then there was a banging at my door.”

The Condos were evacuated and Rocky Hill High School was opened as a warming shelter. Down in Haddam Neck, another viewer, Neal Perron, sent us drone footage of the smoke. You see it drifting over the horizon 30 miles away. For more than two hours, firefighters could do nothing but wait.

“Command made the decision that we were going to take up a defensive position,” said Frank Kelley from the Rocky Hill Fire Department.

Trucks sprayed water on the woods nearby to stop the fire that had started to spread to the brush along the highway. Finally, firefighters finished putting out the fire with foam trailers. Now, many state agencies are figuring out what the greater impact of the fire was.

 “We’re going to have to assess the soil contamination around the area.,” says Jeff Chandler, DEEP’s Supervisor Emergency Response. “We do have impact to a stream and a distributary to the Connecticut River.”

DEEP says they’ll be trying to contain the leak for at least 12 hours.

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