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Tractor-trailer's load catches fire, snarls interstate

SUWANEE - Authorities shut down two of the four southbound lanes of Interstate 85 after a tractor-trailer carrying cardboard caught on fire on Friday afternoon.

No injuries were reported, but I-85 south of Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road slowed to a crawl for most of rush hour.

The fire originated from a tire on a truck and extended to the load, said Lt. Thomas Rutledge, Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman. There was no accident, and it was unclear how the fire started from a tire.

The two right lanes of I-85 north of Old Peachtree Road were closed for about four hours, after firefighters were dispatched at 3:15 p.m. The two left lanes were open all evening, though traffic moved extremely slowly.

"At no time was the interstate completed blocked," Rutledge said.

The tractor-trailer had a flatbed and was hauling compressed cardboard, which burned and produced a lot of smoke but few flames.

Because of the location, firefighters used a 3,000-gallon tanker to shuttle water to the scene. The Fire Department dispatched two fire trucks to the location, each with a capacity of 500 gallons.

"For a fire like that, water is extended pretty quickly," Rutledge said.

The water tanker often is dispatched to interstate accidents or brush fires because there are no accessible hydrants nearby, he said. The tanker filled a dump tank, which looks like an above-ground swimming pool, for the fire trucks to draw water.

Fire crews had extra heavy equipment to help remove the debris, he said.