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Big rig, pickup engulfed by flames following chain-reaction collision on 405 in Costa Mesa

A big rig caught fire on the 405 Freeway Wednesday afternoon, the result of a five-car collision in Costa Mesa, injuring two.
A big rig caught fire on the 405 Freeway Wednesday afternoon, the result of a five-car collision in Costa Mesa. Two were hospitalized, but the driver of the truck was unhurt.
(Courtesy of Todd Friedland)

Two people were hospitalized Wednesday afternoon following a five-vehicle collision that caused a semitruck to overturn and catch fire, engulfing a second vehicle in flames on the 405 Freeway in Costa Mesa, fire officials confirmed.

Costa Mesa Fire Battalion Chief Chris Coates said the incident took place on southbound lanes of the 405 Freeway, near Bristol Avenue, shortly after 12:30 p.m. The call came in as a rollover collision involving a big rig, but as engines approached the scene, Coates said a column of billowing smoke indicated a fire.

“We were getting updates from the dispatch center that there were multiple cars involved, the semitruck was on fire, another vehicle was on fire, and we had multiple victims in multiple vehicles,” Coates said Thursday. “It was a pretty significant call.”

Fire crews respond to a multivehicle fire on southbound 405 Freeway Wednesday afternoon.
Fire crews from Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley and the Orange County Fire Authority were called to the scene of a multivehicle fire on the southbound 405 Freeway Wednesday afternoon.
(Courtesy of Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue)

Coates called additional engine companies to ensure first responders had an adequate water supply to battle the blaze. The cab portion of the semitruck, which had been carrying a load of dry goods, exploded into flames, igniting another vehicle in the No. 1 lane and spilling diesel fuel onto the freeway, Coates said.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Officer Anselmo Templado described the collision as a chain reaction that began in the No. 5 lane when a silver Ford Fusion traveling south changed lanes into the No. 4 lane and struck a silver Lexus, which then caused that car to veer left into the No. 3 lane and collide with the big rig.

“That impact caused the big rig to veer left into the No. 2 lane, where it struck a white Kia Forte,” Templado said. “Then, the Kia Forte veered to the left into the No. 1 lane, where it struck a white Toyota Tacoma — it was a chain reaction.”

Fire crews respond to the 405 Freeway, south of Bristol Avenue, where a chain-reaction collision caused a fire.
Fire crews respond to a portion of the 405 Freeway, south of Bristol Avenue, where a chain-reaction collision caused a fire and shut down southbound lanes for several hours.
(Courtesy of Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue)

The semitruck overturned during the incident and slid across the carpool lane, hitting a guardrail in the center median. Templado said the impact caused about 40 linear feet of damage to the railing.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze in approximately 20 minutes, as first responders worked to triage people on scene. The driver of the big rig escaped his cab unharmed, according to Coates.

Two occupants inside the Tacoma, the second vehicle to catch fire, were transported to an area hospital and treated for minor to moderate injuries, Coates said. Two more drivers declined medical assistance.

“All of the victims who were involved in this accident were lucky,” the battalion chief added. “If anyone had not made it out of those vehicles [on fire], it would have been non-salvageable.”

CHP issued a SigAlert at 12:43 p.m., initially closing four lanes of traffic before deciding on a full freeway closure as a hazmat team was called to the scene, according to Templado. All southbound lanes of traffic were diverted onto Bristol Avenue, and the on-ramp from Bristol to the 405 was closed.

Shortly after 2 p.m., a single lane of traffic was reopened, with all lanes reopening by 6:45 p.m., CHP reported.

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