A driver was able to safely get out of his pickup Friday before it became engulfed in flames on the interstate, and a stash of leftover fireworks added to the blaze, according to the Montana Highway Patrol.
The incident on Interstate-90 West was called in at 10:01 a.m. Firefighters were still on scene at 11 a.m. just west of the 56th Street overpass, and one charred-looking pickup could be seen with its hood propped open.
The vehicle that caught fire, a red 2012 Dodge Ram, was experiencing mechanical issues, according to MHP Trooper David Hankins. Preliminary findings suggest fluid from the transmission hit the exhaust, sparking the fire, he said. Pieces of the transmission were later found on the roadway, Hankins said.
The driver had pulled to the shoulder after hearing a loud pop and noticed a small fire a couple of yards behind his truck, which he was able to put out, Hankins said.
Walking back to his truck, the driver noticed a fire had started underneath it, which quickly engulfed the entire vehicle, the trooper said.
Fireworks left inside the truck then began going off, which ignited a small fire in the median that Hankins was able to put out.
The Billings Fire Department put out the vehicle fire, Hankins said.
The incident left westbound traffic temporarily backed up for roughly two miles on I-90, with semi truck drivers and vacationers in RVs walking around outside their vehicles. The interstate reopened at 11:31 a.m.
Westbound traffic was being diverted at the Zoo Drive exit onto Frontage Road. That reroute was responsible for a separate, roughly mile-long traffic jam around 11 a.m., as cars slowed to exit the interstate.