I-95 collapse caused by tanker fire is strikingly similar to 1996 blaze in Philadelphia

Following the 1996 fire, the highway was closed for several weeks, and partial closures lasted for six months.

6abc Digital Staff Image
Sunday, June 11, 2023
1996 video of fire under I-95 in Philadelphia
A fire erupted under I-95 in Philadephia in March, 1996. David Murphy reports.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Interstate 95 was shut down Sunday morning after a tanker truck fire erupted underneath an overpass in the city's Tacony section, causing the northbound lanes to collapse.

But this is not the first time something like this has happened in Philadelphia.

Sunday's fire broke out around 6 a.m. underneath I-95 near the Cottman Avenue exit.

Video from Chopper 6 showed the overpass carrying the northbound lanes of the highway were reduced to rubble. The southbound lanes are also compromised, officials said.

Chopper 6 flies over a portion of Interstate 95 northbound that collapsed after a tanker fire.

The fire was strikingly similar to another blaze in Philadelphia in March 1996, when an illegal tire dump under I-95 caught fire, melting guard rails and buckling the pavement. That blaze went to eight alarms.

The highway was closed for several weeks, and partial closures lasted for six months.

Seven teenagers were charged with arson and the dump's owner was sentenced to seven to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $3 million of the $6.5 million repair costs, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

More recently in Atlanta, a massive fire collapsed an elevated portion of Interstate 85, shutting down the heavily traveled route through the heart of the city in March 2017. A homeless man was accused of starting the blaze, but federal investigators said in a report that the state transportation department's practice of storing combustible construction materials under the highway increased the risk of fire.

Officials say the extent of the damage caused by Sunday's crash means this is a situation that will impact the region for a long time to come.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.