News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 15, 2013

Trailer filled with watermelons catches fire on I-70

Staff report
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Officials don’t know what exactly caused a fire in a produce trailer filled with watermelons Tuesday afternoon.

But an Indiana State Police officer, and Terre Haute Fire Department, quickly extinguished the small fire, which happened in an open-top produce trailer that had pulled onto an emergency shoulder on eastbound I-70 in Vigo County.

At about 3:16 p.m., ISP Capt. Mike Eslinger was driving east on I-70 near the eight-mile marker and noticed the vehicle appeared to be on fire.

State Police summoned fire units from the Terre Haute Fire Department, while Eslinger attempted to put out the fire with his fire extinguisher and another extinguisher from a passerby.

The fire was initially minimized and ultimately extinguished by the Terre Haute Fire Department, with minimal damage.

Investigation determined the blaze had begun in one of the cardboard containers filled with watermelons and had spread to a second container. A tossed cigarette is one theory, but the actual cause is unknown, according to an Indiana State Police news release.

The truck carrying the produce was driven by 69-year-old Phillip Fernus of Kokomo, who was en route to Kokomo.

ISP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement conducted an inspection and found the trailer to be overweight. Fernus was cited for an overweight violation and released. The weight was 8,300 lbs. and the legal weight should be 7,000 lbs.

Traffic was slow in the area for about 45 minutes.