11/06/2014 07:15 EST | Updated 01/06/2015 05:59 EST

Truck Hauling Ammonium Nitrate Catches Fire Near Kamloops


KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Trailers carrying about 40,000 kilograms of highly explosive ammonium nitrate have been hauled away from the scene of a truck fire that forced the evacuation of homes along the Trans-Canada Highway near Kamloops, B.C.

The stretch of highway, about a 20-minute drive west of the city's downtown core, was closed for several hours Thursday over concerns for public safety, but reopened at night after the flames in the truck died down without spreading to the cargo.

Driver Rod Cardinal said he was hauling the ammonium nitrate, which can be used in explosives, from Alberta to the Gibraltar Mine near Williams Lake, B.C., on Thursday afternoon when he noticed smoke was coming from underneath his carpet.

"I got pulled over as quickly as I could and I hit it with both my fire extinguishers, and it did absolutely nothing to it," he said. "That’s when I stopped, hopped out, dropped the trailer, pulled the tractor as far as I could."

"I got it about 50 feet away."

Kamloops Fire Rescue did not respond to the call because the incident occurred outside its coverage range.

RCMP Cpl. Cheryl Bush said police extended an evacuation order to a 1,600-metre radius of the fire by 3:45 p.m. "out of an abundance of caution," and residents were taken to a nearby facility.

Kamloops-Thompson School District Supt. Karl de Bruijn said the accident also delayed homeward-bound students aboard three buses.

He said they were safe and under the care of the drivers.

The RCMP reported the fire began dying down by the early evening and had not spread to the trailers.

Local media were reporting the evacuation order had been rescinded.

The Ministry of Transportation's DriveBC website reported the highway had reopened before 6:30 p.m.

(Kamloops This Week, CHNL,CFJC)

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