‘I've Never Seen Anything Like It': Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Reopens After Big Rig Fire

Eastbound lanes on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge reopened nearly 10 hours after a tractor trailer was engulfed in flames Tuesday morning, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP said that a big rig crashed into a temporary construction barrier, causing the vehicle's cab to catch on fire around 8 a.m. The report also said that the big rig was carrying 24 tons of contaminated soil.

"It blew up twice. There was a couple of explosions. I've never seen anything like it," said Art Androyna, who had a front row seat to the fiery crash. His painting crew was removing scaffolding on the bridge when the big rig slammed into the guard rail.

"We all got out of there once that happened," Androyna recalled. "Everyone cut and ran."

Eastbound Interstate Highway 580 en route to Richmond was blocked by the aftermath of the collision and was reopened around 5:25 p.m., but the CHP has warned drivers of residual delays. The westbound lanes remained open during the day.

The closure meant there was no way out of Marin County and commuters were forced to go through San Francisco and across the Bay Bridge to enter the East Bay.

"We are extremeley fortunate he was able to keep [the big rig] in a straight line," said CHP officer Aristotle Wolfe. 

No one was injured in the crash and subsequent fire, the CHP said, noting that the driver made it out before the explosion. Investigators, who are looking into the cause of the crash, said the driver was not driving under the influence.

Emergency crews have spent all day cleaning up the wreckage. They had to drain the big rig of its remaining diesel fuel, and remove the contaminated dirt and fuel that spilled onto the deck.

"We have to make sure this is safe," Wolfe said. "We don't want to open anything until it is. I hope everyone across the Bay Area exercises patience. They're going to need to deal with this kind of corridor being closed for a while."

The CHP has advised drivers to take eastbound Highway 37 to westbound Interstate Highway 80 as an alternate route. 

"I'm just going to have to wait it out," said commuter Kelii Amantiad. "Not much we can do but wait it out."

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