23/05/11 - F3 truck fire closes freeway

Published: 23rd May 2011

At 1.20pm on Monday 23 May, Fire Rescue NSW and Rural Fire Service crews responded to a truck fire on the F3 Sydney to Newcastle Freeway. The incident occurred in the north bound lanes just one kilometre south of the Hawkesbury Bridge. When Berowra fire crews arrived they reported that the prime mover of a B Double truck was fully involved in fire and that flames were threatening to weaken the cargo tanks which contained 50,000 litres of Sodium Hydroxide.

There were major fears that if the tanks ruptured the released Sodium Hydroxide would flow down the steep incline, directly into the Hawkesbury River and severely impact the oyster farms located in the vicinity. Hazmat crews were responded to assist with operations. The prime mover fire was fuelled by diesel which was leaking from the vehicle fuel tanks and FRNSW firefighters from Berowra, Kariong, Berkeley Vale together with RFS crews worked in difficult circumstances for 30 minutes to protect the cargo tanks and finally extinguish the prime mover fire.

As a result of the incident, all north bound traffic on the freeway was brought to a standstill. Drivers and passengers in vehicles near the incident were directed to leave their vehicles and walk to a safe area outside a two hundred metre exclusion zone. The driver of the vehicle luckily escaped and was transported to hospital for further treatment.

Once the fire was extinguished and determined safe, an inspection of the cargo tanks was conducted and it was determined that fortunately the tanks had not been breached. The priority of fire crews quickly turned to re-opening traffic lanes to relieve the growing peak hour congestion. At 3.30pm one north bound was re-opened and a second north bound lane was re-opened at 4.00pm. After final clean up and inspections it was determined to leave the truck in situation and attempt a recovery of the vehicle after the peak hour traffic flow. The third north bound lane was subsequently re-opened at 5.15pm.

Hazmat crews returned to the site at 8.00pm and assisted in a lengthy process to transfer the cargo to another tanker. The area was declared safe after the damaged truck was removed from the site just after midnight.