Truck Crash Sparks Brush Fire, Snarls Freeway Traffic

A big rig crashed and burst into flames Thursday on Interstate 5 in the far northern reaches of San Diego County, injuring the driver, sparking a brush fire and snarling traffic for 10 hours.

Shortly after 5 a.m., the southbound tractor-trailer struck a stalled and unoccupied minivan that had been in an accident moments earlier near Las Pulgas Road in the Camp Pendleton area, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The semi then overturned and caught fire, the CHP reported.

The trucker was able to get out of the vehicle before it became fully engulfed in flames. Medics airlifted him to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla for treatment of apparently minor injuries, the CHP reported.

The burning rig soon ignited roadside vegetation, and the brush fire blackened about four open acres and destroyed the minivan before crews got it under control roughly 45 minutes later.

Southbound traffic, meanwhile, ground to a halt while firefighters doused the blazes.

By 11 a.m., the gridlock still extended miles to the north, as far as Camino de Estrella in Orange County, the Highway Patrol reported. Officers were directing motorists past the accident scene via a single lane, CHP public affairs Officer Rob Sanchez said.

The entire southbound side of the freeway was open again by about 2:30 p.m., and traffic was flowing at normal speeds again within 45 minutes.

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