One lane reopens on Highway 99 in Madera County after big rig crashes, catches fire

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Red balls of fire and heavy columns of smoke rose again along Highway 99-- a fiery sight eerily familiar for first responders. (KFSN)

Red balls of fire and heavy columns of smoke rose again along Highway 99-- a fiery sight eerily familiar for first responders.

"Two crashes in two days is just too many for anyone," said Lt. Commander Alfredo Vasquez, California Highway Patrol.

The smoke lingered for hours after the initial crash near Highway 152. Jorge Orozco was headed north to San Jose when the smoke caught his attention miles away.

"I noticed just a big trail of fire across the road, on both sides of the freeway. And then I saw the trailer turned over."

Orozco, who is in the National Guard, pulled over to help, he said the driver had escaped from the cab and his hands were trembling.

"He was pretty shook up; he was just apologizing not really knowing what was happening."

Officers are still figuring out how the driver lost control. They said the truck veered right, hit the K-rail, overcorrected, and then ultimately fell onto its side.

The trailer was carrying liquid cleaning solution inside and officers were afraid it would leak.

"If it caught in the fire, it can materialize in gaseous form and that could travel into the city," said Lt. Commander Alfredo Vasquez, CHP.

While part of northbound traffic reopened by the end rush hour the southbound lanes were trickier to handle. Clean-up crews needed to assess the danger were tied up in Atwater remediating Tuesday's explosion.

"If we move, and there are some containers that have been breached or damaged in some way shape or form, we don't want that spillage to leak on the southbound lanes," said Vasquez.

A second massive clean-up right on the heels of Tuesday's explosion and both possibly caused by speed.

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