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Cause of fire near Lycoming Mall still remains a mystery

By Staff | May 9, 2018

What caused last Monday’s spectacular fire in the eastbound lanes of Intestate 180 near the Lycoming Mall will remain a mystery, Montoursville Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Hutchins said.

The truck driver, N.C. Stoltzfus, of Elverson, Chester County, was driving a flatbed Freightliner loaded with bales of hay and was pulling a trailer filled with more hay bales when a fire erupted on the trailer about 2:10 p.m., state police said.

Stoltzfus traveled onto the southern shoulder of the four-lane highway, got out and disconnected the burning trailer, Trooper Ernest Capobianco, the lead investigator said.

The driver got back in his cab and pulled ahead about 100 feet, but in a matter of moments, a second fire broke out, engulfing the bales of hay on the flatbed.

When firefighters reached the scene, both the flatbed and trailer were on fire. Smoke, that billowed hundreds of feet into the air, could be seen for three or four miles.

Hutchins said as windy as it was, it’s very possible that a burning ember from the trailer landed in the hay bales on the flatbed even before the driver realize it.

Heat and flames from the two fires ignited small brush fires around the scene, but they were quickly contained.

Firefighters from Montoursville, Pennsdale, Loyalsock Township, Hughesville, Old Lycoming Township and Picture Rocks fought the fires for more than an hour.

All eastbound traffic was diverted off the highway at Fairfield Road, but traffic was backed up into Loyalsock Township. The highway was re-opened about 6:45 p.m. after police and crews from the state Department of Transportation had the lanes cleared. PennDOT brought in a large loader to help with the clean up.