Oil tanker fire shuts Palmer access; Fair traffic diverted

tanker fire
An overturned fuel tanker caught fire on the Glenn Highway on Sept. 4, closing access to Palmer. Photo: Alaska State Troopers.

An oil tanker rollover near Palmer caused a spectacular fire, but no injuries this afternoon.

A double tanker trailer heading off the Glenn Highway at the Palmer exit Friday afternoon lost its rear trailer around 12:15 pm. The diesel-filled tanker rolled and burst into flame, causing a huge column of black smoke and intense flames.

Bill Gamble, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Emergency Services director, says firefighting units from Wasilla, Palmer and JBER in Anchorage responded.

“Sometimes in situations like this, when you have a hazardous material, like diesel or gasoline, it’s better to just let it burn. If you put it out, than you have another situation where you have to get rid of that product. It turns into a hazardous incident.”

The tanker was carrying more than 5,000 gallons of fuel. The driver of the double tanker was not hurt in the incident, because he could drive away.  The burning tanker was mid-way through the exit ramp, when it rolled.

No injuries have been reported and the fire is now out. The Northbound Palmer exit is still closed to traffic. Alaska State Fair traffic is being diverted to the Parks Highway and the Trunk Road exit.

“Because of the heat involved because of the diesel fuel that was burning, there may be some damage to the road. I’m not sure, but I would suspect there is. There is some to the guard rail. So I’m not sure how long it will take to fix the road so it is open for everybody to use again,” Gamble says.

Gamble says traffic on the Glenn slowed considerably while firefighters battled the blaze, but it is now moving. He says whenever an incident involves a commercial vehicle, many state agencies get involved in an investigation. After the debris is removed, damage to the road needs to be repaired, so drivers should be prepared to divert to Palmer on the Trunk Road route. Alaska State Troopers says the Northbound Palmer exit on the Glenn will be closed for several hours.  Fair-goers can also take the Old Glenn Highway exit to Palmer.

Photo: Alaska State Troopers.
Photo: Alaska State Troopers.
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APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone. Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen