ESCALON — The driver of a tanker carrying 8,000 gallons of propane died Saturday from injuries sustained when his truck exploded after colliding with a big rig and a box truck on Mariposa Road at Dodds Road.
Smoke from the 1:30 p.m. fire was seen as far away as Turlock.
Escalon Fire District was supported by a San Joaquin County strike team from the Rim Fire who saw the smoke as they were returning via Highway 4 and radioed to see if the fire district needed help. The five engine team consisting of units from Lathrop Manteca, Collegeville, and Farmington was on the scene in minutes and helped chase down numerous grass fires.
Two bystanders pulled the severely burned driver from the truck. He was taken to UC Medical Center where he later died. His name has not been released.
The tanker caught fire immediately. Flaming propane was spread for 200 yards of road between the impact site and where the truck finally came to rest. Siding melted on the home nearest the stricken tanker. Nearby yards also burned. Grass fires spread over two acres. Burned power poles and downed lines cut power to a number of homes. But it could have been worse.
Added manpower from the strike team allowed an attack on the flames from both sides of the burning tanker. The heat was too intense for firefighters to get around to the other side.
All fires were put out by 5 p.m., some 3.5 hours after the accident.
Since the tanker remains were considered too hot to move, the road was closed for most of the weekend until crews could safely do the job.