A load of dry sulfur spilled and caught fire Thursday morning on the Golden State Freeway, forcing the closure of all lanes of the freeway near the northern Los Angeles County line for much of the day and backing up traffic for miles.
The California Highway Patrol closed all northbound lanes at 9:30 a.m. when a tractor-trailer pulling two flatbed trailers skidded during a light rain and dumped two pallets of 50-pound bags of sulfur across four lanes.
The freeway was closed off from about one mile north of Ft. Tejon to the bottom of a pass over the Tehachapi Mountains known as the Grapevine in Kern County.
Officer Jim Biehl said the truck did not overturn and the driver, Mohammad Khan, 24, of Ridge Grove was uninjured.
Biehl said at least 20 of the bags of sulfur began to burn or smolder, sending a white cloud about 200 feet into the air.
"It appears that as the bags hit the ground the friction started them burning," Biehl said.
The truck was carrying about 35,000 pounds of sulfur for use on grapes to fight fungus.
As the sulfur cloud continued to grow, the CHP closed the southbound lanes of the freeway at 11:15 a.m. but reopened them two hours later, Biehl said. The northbound lanes were not opened until 7 p.m. Thursday.
While the freeway was closed, traffic backed up nearly five miles, the CHP reported.