OT- Semi Trlr Fire, Criminal Stupidity, Christmas Miracle
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  1. #1
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    Default OT- Semi Trlr Fire, Criminal Stupidity, Christmas Miracle

    3am Christmas morning I hear a commotion outside, and it did not sound like reindeer or Santa, stepped out the door to see a plume of smoke in the air, first thought was my place on fire, thankfully it was not. Stepped out towards the street and saw the commotion was a semi trailer on fire, driver had just unhooked his truck and pulled away from it. There is a parking area just north of town, there are several empty lots between there and where he parked including one just 200ft back, nope, the dumb idiot drove a flaming trailer into town and parked right in front of the only 2 buildings that have awnings that extend to the street.

    By the time I made it to the scene the trailer was engulfed in flames and had already bent its frame, no fire trucks were on the scene but I could hear them coming. First 2 trucks arrived and doused the flames until they were almost out, then they ran out of water. Over the next 10 minutes as they waited on the third firetruck with the hose to connect to hydrants the flames kept building and caught the historic McGill Club awning on fire, the heat shattered the glass across the front, it was a minute or two away from being a complete loss, if main structure had caught on fire it probably would have taken out the rest of the block.

    At this point some of you might be wondering, "small town honkey tonk bar, what's the big deal?". To begin with its been the towns's party/gathering place for the past 96 years, beyond that it houses 2 treasures, one is most likely irreplaceable, the other although it could be replaced physically, would never have the history behind it. Just inside the front doors is a collection of over 100 photographs of the young men and a few women from this community that joined the services in WWI and WWII, many of which never made it back home.

    The other treasure, probably worth more than the building itself, is the Brunswick front and back bar. The bar was shipped from NYC to San Francisco in the mid 1800's, it was loaded on a freighter and sailed around the Cape Horn, from there it followed the railroad crews east during the construction of the Transcontinental railroad. At some point in the early 1900's it ended up in a bar in Ely Nevada, that building burned in the 1920's, a section of the back bar was lost in that fire. It was moved to McGill in 1924 when the McGill Club was built and has been here since then.

    Credit for saving this building goes to the volunteer firefighters, it was a wicked cold single digit temp night, the water instantly froze on the ground making it an icy slick mess.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails mcgfire-5.jpg   mcgfire-4.jpg   mcgfire-3.jpg   mcgfire-2.jpg   mcgfire-1.jpg  


  2. #2
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    Pics of the mess from Christmas day.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails mcgfire-11.jpg   mcgfire-10.jpg   mcgfire-9.jpg   mcgfire-7.jpg  

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    Thankfully the photograph collection appears undamaged, although I'm sure the heat was not good for them. I know one researcher is working on identifying which service members did not make it home, it was probably common knowledge 50 years ago, but the details were not recorded and that generation is gone. I know the building owner, I am going to push him into letting someone digitize the images, just in case....
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails mcgill-club.jpg   mcgfire-13.jpg  

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    That darn semi-truck driver ought to be drug by his knees to the town square and hung at dusk for the stupidness they did. Could have at least dropped it in the middle of the street or at least down the street away from buildings!

    Thank goodness the fire department got it out before real damage could have happen.

    Thanks for sharing. Ken

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    Dang. All those poor folks were having xmas eve with their folks, and all hell breaks loose.

    What was in that trailer, bales of marijuana??

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    Glad to hear the photos were saved. I second getting them copied. Truck drivers used to be called "The Highway Saviors". I know some truck drivers, good truck drivers. Some of the morons out there running shouldn't be riding a bike let alone a semi. That's why they're putting auto trans' in trucks. Not many people can drive a millennial anti-theft device, AKA manual transmission. Want to see some bad truck drivers, drive I94 through northern Indiana. Anywhere between I65 and the Illinois line. Saw 2 trucks trying to run each other off the road during rush hour which is pretty much all day. Sounds like no one got hurt that's the most important thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jim rozen View Post

    What was in that trailer, bales of marijuana??
    It was a south bound load of "Panda Express" plastic take out bags. I think they got most of it hauled off today, front end loader and a few dump trucks were running all day today, they winched trailer onto a lowboy as sun was setting.

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    Any bets the "driver" was a recant immigrant from take your choice. 10-15 years ago when i was driving OS load pilot cars ran into some real winner drivers .{Herders would be a better description ,more at home with a herd of sheep}

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    I am glad the incident had a reasonably good outcome. This story of the fire begs the question: what was the cargo in that semi trailer ? Cargoes do not normally spontaneously start burning, unless the cargo was some sort of reactive substances. In that case, the load would have been considered as 'hazardous material', the rig should have been placarded accordingly, and the driver- having a 'hazmat endorsement' on his commercial driver's license (CDL) would be required to know how to handle the load, hazards associated with it, and to inform the firefighters of what the cargo was. It sounds like this driver did anything but that. The trailer, being orange in color, is likely one of Schneider's- a very large trucking firm. One would think that with today's means of tracking loads and trailers, an outfit like Schneider would have treated a load that could spontaneously burst into a full blown fire as 'hazmat' and put a properly qualified driver on it.

    I am frankly surprised that the driver of that rig would stop it in front of businesses rather than head into an open area. That he cut the tractor off from the trailer and drove away from the burning trailer sounds like he may not have had any idea of what the correct response should have been.

    I think the idea of the over-the-road trucker as the 'savior of the highway' or similar is worn a bit thin. Large fleet operators and the conditions under which many of the fleet drivers work have pretty much reduced many of the drivers to people who are simply doing a job with something less than the careful attitude and pride the older generations of truckers had.

    When I was in my late 20's, as a young engineer on a powerplant job out in Wyoming, my employer asked me to get my CDL. They wanted me to deadhead on their rigs and be able to take over for a driver who might want a break or not be feeling well. They also wanted me to be able to move a rig locally on occasion. When you are in your 20's, you do not think too far ahead, and the idea of climbing up into the cab of a truck-tractor and driving it seemed like the a great idea. So, I was taken out on the jobsite and back roads, given a fast course in handling a semi, and in driving various types of transmissions. A number of the truck tractors were old heavy horses kept on site for their winches, and these were Autocars, having 5 speed main trannies and 4 speed auxiliary transmissions. The over-the-road rigs that ran between the home office and the jobsites were newer Macks, also with 5 x 4 transmissions. I learned to drive rigs with those types of transmissions. After I got laid off, a ranch family asked me to come stay with them. I agreed on condition that I 'work my board'. They had a custom combining outfit stuck on the Western Slop of Colorado, laid out by a hail storm, and a number of the hands had up and quit. I went to work on the combining outfit, cooking, servicing the combines, and driving grain trucks. This was my first experience driving the 'Roadranger' 13 speed transmissions.

    On another later job, I was asked if I had a CDL, and even though I was hired as an engineer and asked to use my PE license, I was asked to drive straight tilt bedf jobs ( twin screw, Roadranger transmissions) to deliver diesel generators. I was still pretty cocky with the idea of being able to drive heavy trucks. At some point, the enormity of the matter finally seeped into me. Driving a heavy truck, I was in charge of a vehicle that had the potential to do a lot more damage and required a lot more knowledge and skill to handle than a passenger car or motorcycle. As I was taught back in Wyoming, driving a heavy truck meant constantly thinking 'way ahead', anticipating grades, curves, merges, cross winds, and reacting way ahead of the situations rather than more or less on top of them as people in cars might do. Things like looking at clouds, tree limbs, or flags on poles to get an idea of wind direction and speed which would act on a heavy truck and could affect stability or handling. Things like how a load was made up on the bed of the truck, how it was bound down, the resulting approximate center of gravity and axle loadings... Then, there is the matter of checking a rig over before getting in it and rolling down the road. How many car and pickup drivers go over their vehicles before each trip ?

    As the years passed, I came to work at the New York Power Authority, and in time, bid into a job at a pumped storage hydro plant. Part of my responsibilities included looking after the fleet garage and a crew of mechanics. We had about 80 vehicles, from sedans to semis, as well as heavy equipment in the fleet. We also looked after the 'remote' hydroelectric sites. I was asked if I had a CDL, and from that point on, my employer paid to renew it. When the 'new' CDL came into force, I went through the training with the rest of the men. We only had to take the new written exams. I kept my license limited to 'articulated vehicles' with airbrakes, wanting no part of either tank vehicles or a 'Hazmat' endorsement. Mostly, I used my CDL to test drive heavy trucks, particularly when either repairs were needed, completed. Come the first days of spring weather, one of the truck mechanics who was something of a preacher in his church would call me, claiming he needed to test drive one of the line department's truck tractors. Of course, you can't test drive a truck tractor without hitching up a semi trailer, so we'd grab a loaded flatbed trailer to put some load on the truck tractor. Off we'd go, out the gate and out onto local roads. The preacher would have the windows down, just letting the smell of the earth and of spring in general blow thru the cab. We'd drive a piece, and he'd pull onto a drive-in, and we'd get us a couple of root beer floats. "Joe, he'd say- "Why'nt you take her back to the project and see if you feel or hear anything amiss..." So, I'd climb up into the driver's seat of a Freightliner conventional tractor and the preacher would kick back in the passenger seat and say: "Head for the barn, Joe". I'd wheel the rig through the security gate and onto the project roads, left forearm on the windowsill of the door, and head back to the fleet garage. I'd say I had not felt nor heard anything amiss, and we charged the time off to 'test driving' whatever the fleet number on the truck tractor was. The crew used to think it was way cool to have a boss who was a P.E., who could climb into a rig and drive it, or pick up a stinger and weld or do a variety of other things. Times changed and with various maintenance resource management software, you'd never get away with that kind of 'test driving'. Towards the end of my time with the Power Authority (I retired in 2013), I was by then a senior mechanical engineer and working down in the powerhouse. I happened up to the fleet garage and saw they had a fresh new truck tractor there. The mechanics ( a new crew, my old crew having retired or gone on to their rewards) showed me the new truck tractor. It had an automatic shifting transmission. Basically, it was a Roadranger air shift transmission, but it was coupled to a system that sensed load, road speed, and a number of other parameters and shifted accordingly. I sat in the cab and looked things over, and marvelled at this new system. Of course, the oldtimer in me had to ask the mechanics: "What happens if the software s--ts the bed or something goes haywire in the servos and shifter mechanisms ?" The answer was: "You are stuck", and the other answer was that they had to link up with the manufacturers to get things diagnosed to make repairs.

    I think back to the old rigs I learned on, and to a buddy's 1963 Mack dump truck. 5 x 4 transmissions, no synchromesh, no air conditioned cabs, cabs as noisy as riding in a steel drum.... take both hands off the wheel to split shift, play the throttle and do it quick without grinding.... Another buddy has a couple of Ford pickups as his daily rides. One is an ancient stepside F-150 with 'three on the tree' (three speed manual transmission, shift lever on the steering column). The other is a 1970's F-250 4 x 4 with a 4 speed manual transmission. He has a manual choke on the older of the two pickups. His insurance company was asking him some questions about his pickups and said they offered a reduction in rates for 'theft deterrent systems'. My buddy said his old pickups had 'theft deterrent systems', and when asked about it, said one truck had two separate theft deterrent devices- the manual transmission and the manual choke. He said the cluck on the other end of the line from the insurance company was clueless as to what he was talking about.

    Nowadays, in retirement, I keep up my CDL so I can use my buddy's dump trucks if I need a load of crushed stone for our driveway or they need a hand. I am not breaking the door down to climb up into the cabs of heavy trucks as I was when I was in my 20's. Older and wiser, I guess. I went to renew my driver's license and put it into the new 'holographic' form (pre Covid-19). Our local DMV is a friendly little place with one or two people working the counter. I handed in my paperwork for the changeover of my license, and remarked to the lady that I'd be giving up my CDL. She asked why. I said I did not use the CDL much, and did not want to keep up the medical. The lady looked at my record and said that since I'd had a CDL for over 20 years, if I did not mind a restriction limiting me to driving heavy trucks only within NY State, I'd keep my CDL. Fine with me, so I kept my CDL. Other than running a dump truck or moving a tractor and low boy with equipment on it locally, I do not see myself getting out on the highways with heavy trucks. I see the way a lot of the drivers of heavy trucks handle their rigs and the old notion of truckers being courteous or 'knights of the road' seems to be heading into extinction. Look at photos of truckers of the 30's into maybe the 50's: they often wore uniforms, some wore 'flat' military style hats when they came off the rigs, many wore neckties, and pants had a razor crease to them. Different era and different breed of truckers, for sure.

  12. #10
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    Makes you wonder if the driver had a leaking air line on the trailer brakes or part of the linkage gone bad causing the brake pads to drag and catch excess grease on fire..... Or the Jake brake was set too much??? We'll never know.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4GSR View Post
    Makes you wonder if the driver had a leaking air line on the trailer brakes or part of the linkage gone bad causing the brake pads to drag and catch excess grease on fire..... Or the Jake brake was set too much??? We'll never know.
    How would a Jake brake cause a fire?

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    Pulling next to the curb was a bad decision, but the driver may have thought pulling into town would bring the fire closer to a hydrant and the fire department.

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    At least (presumably) the guy didn't do this on purpose, unlike the a-hole in Tennessee who decided to off himself with a bomb in a RV.

    Fortunately, the TN guy didn't plan for extra casualties, but still...

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    Why would anyone be stupid enough to drive a truck.......slightest mistake,fined a months pay....driver is fined ,not the owner ,even for overloading,that puts dollars directly in the owners pocket.....Some US states ,fines of $100k for things like load manifest errors........there was bit of a backender between two trucks outside my house,both drivers wearing turbans.....one driver taken away ,and a substitute left before the cops come .....1/2 hr later.

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    Those ranting about this should realize ,once a bit of a fire happens in one wheel ,the maxi brakes come on and lock all the wheels of the trailer,....it cant be moved without winding off all the brakes,or a crane......id say the first thing the driver knew was the trailer brakes came on ,he would have looked in the mirror and seen the fire ........assuming he s a subbie with a company trailer,next move is to save his truck .....just pull the trailer pin lock and drive out from under the trailer.The brake hoses will likely pull off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4GSR View Post
    Makes you wonder if the driver had a leaking air line on the trailer brakes or part of the linkage gone bad causing the brake pads to drag and catch excess grease on fire.....
    Yeah, this happened across the street at the gas station a few years ago - contractor's truck pulled up to an actively in-use gas island with one of wheels on fire from a locked up brake, the man had no idea it was flaming up. Kids running the station were out of the office like a shot, yelling at him to drive it forward away from the pumps. Could have ended badly but for their quick thinking.

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    One has to look at the pics where the background is visible to realize what a dumbass move this was. 100 yards back is nothing. 100 yards forward is not nothing but doesn't look like building at the curb

    If my car caught fire I am not sure I would be super cognizant of the surroundings, but I hope I would be smarter than that.

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    doubt the driver had any control of when the truck stopped pulling

    perfect storm in the trucking industry right now

    5 to one ratio of loads available to trucks available

    waiver of dot enforcement due to pandemic......

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    Ouch. Ely/McGill has a lot of desert around it. Bad luck or bad planning...

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    I wonder if the driver perhaps failed to notice the fire until he was in town? If not he really was stupid and reckless.

    I think john.k probably nailed it. Pulling into a quiet town the guy had no reason to look in the mirrors until he felt a brake drag. I've seen the aftermath of trailer brake fires and it's amazing how fast the whole trailer can get engulfed. By pulling the tractor away he likely prevented a much worse fire.

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