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Fiery crash that shut down I-70 west of Denver caused flames to spread underneath lanes

Fiery crash that shut down I-70 west of Denver led to flames spreading underneath lanes
Fiery crash that shut down I-70 west of Denver led to flames spreading underneath lanes 03:07

The deadly crash that shut down Interstate 70 for most of the day on Thursday also ignited a fire that spread into a culvert and underneath lanes. It was an added complication to an already stressful situation for first responders near Morrison west of the Denver metro area on Thursday. 

An image from CBS News Colorado viewer Kevin K. showing the tanker fire and black plume of smoke rising from the crash that closed I-70 west of Denver near Morrison.  Kevin K.

The Colorado State Patrol said that one person was killed and the semi driver was injured in the crash that happened about 9:30 a.m. in the westbound lanes just west of the Morrison Road exit. Investigators said a vehicle crashed into the back of a tanker truck that was parked on the shoulder, sparking a fire that sent a black plume of smoke into the sky that could be seen from miles away. 

"They arrived to a really complex incident, you have a fire suppression component, a medical component with taking care of a patient, and you have a hazardous materials component, and then you have a wildland fire component with fire spreading to vegetation," said Arvada Fire spokesman Brady Johnson. 

A wide look from CBS News Colorado of the tanker crash and fire on I-70.  CBS

The impact caused fuel to spill through a culvert and across the eastbound lanes of I-70. That fire, fueled by that fuel spill, spread to the brush and vegetation on the side of the interstate. The origin of the fire was more complicated than just putting out a wildland fire, however. 

"It went through a culvert that is situated underneath the road, so they do have to make sure that it did not compromise the integrity of the road from where the culvert is located, causing any type of road deformity that will make it unsafe for motorists," said Colorado State Trooper Gabriel Moltrer.   

CSP said the culvert needs to be inspected for damage from the fire before traffic can travel in those lanes. 

Both directions of I-70 were closed just after the crash and remained closed for hours. Traffic backups stretched for several miles in each direction. 

CBS News Colorado's helicopter flew over the scene of a tanker fire that closed I-70 on Thursday. CBS

The Jeffco Sheriff's Office said the traffic closure will likely stretch into the afternoon and it will impact the afternoon drive. Both directions of I-70 were closed from Exit 254- US 40 to Genesee and US 6.

According to CDOT, the alternate route for drivers is US 40 frontage road paralleling I-70 or US 6 through Clear Creek Canyon. CDOT said to expect extended delays on all alternate routes.

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