PHOTOS: Tractor trailer catches fire on Interstate 91 in Thetford

Firefighters managed to keep it out of the cargo of wood chips

THETFORD - A smoky fire engulfed the rear wheels of a tractor trailer hauling a load of wood chips from a logging site up to a wood chip-to-energy power plant in Ryegate on Thursday afternoon.

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    Firefighters from Thetford, Norwich and Hanover responded to Mile Marker 82 Northbound shortly after 3 p.m. after other motorists began calling dispatchers to report they could see flames coming from the undercarriage of the 18-wheeler.

    "I'm not sure what caused it.  It may have been an overheated bearing or brake issue but I'm not a 100 percent certain," Thetford Fire Chief Chad Whitcomb explained at the scene.

    The chief noted that once the driver was alerted to the problem he pulled over but bringing the truck to a halt in the breakdown lane brought its own set of problems.

    "When he stopped the fire started to grow," Whitcomb noted.  

    Despite the flames' head-start, firefighters managed to keep the fire from spreading upward from the rear wheel assemblies into the body of the trailer which was fully loaded with tons and tons of wood chips.

    The interstate remained open while crews from Sabil & Sons heavy wrecker service worked for hours in an effort to get enough new tires under the back of the rig to allow it to be driven off of the highway a couple of miles further along at Exit 14.

Hanover Fire Captain Josh Merriam hauls four-inch supply line back to a Norwich engine

Thetford Fire Chief Chad Whitcomb was in command of Thursday afternoon's incident

Norwich Lt. Peter Griggs (red helmet) worked with graduating Dartmouth seniors Caroline Lauer and India Dasbach, who are probationary firefighters with the Norwich Volunteer Fire Department, to repack hose on top of a pumper truck

Norwich Interim Fire Chief Matt Swett (right) also helped stow gear after the fire was extinguished

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