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PHOTOS: Marine Corps vehicle catches fire along I-5 in CA

Large military vehicle fire. (Oceanside Fire 3736/Twitter)

A large military truck on Interstate 5 in Oceanside caught fire Friday afternoon, forcing freeway lanes to shut down and backing up traffic into Carlsbad.

One fire official said it appears that equipment failure severed the hydraulic line, causing the fire. And the fire’s heat led several tires on the 10-tire truck to explode.

The fire was reported shortly after 1 p.m. on northbound I-5 near Oceanside Boulevard, according to the California Highway Patrol’s online traffic log. The truck, alongside the road, was engulfed in fire.

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A number of people who saw the burning vehicle reported small explosions, Oceanside Fire Department Battalion Chief Pete Lawrence said in a news release. Those sounds turned out to have been exploding tires.

And, he said, fire crews — who could see a large column of black smoke as they headed to the scene — arrived to find “the cab of a very large military transport vehicle well involved in fire” and a small fire in nearby brush.

Two Marines in the truck were headed back from San Diego, Lawrence said, when they “heard a loud bang and immediately saw smoke and fire in the rear of the cab.”

The troops pulled over and got out.

The fire led authorities to shut down three lanes for a stretch as crews tackled the fire. The truck and brush fires were out within 30 minutes, Lawrence said.

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The CHP issued a traffic alert. As of shortly after 2 p.m., two lanes had reopened, but the slow lane remained closed.

And the traffic damage had already been done. Sigalert.com pegged freeway speeds at less than 10 miles an hour as far south as Cannon Road in Carlsbad, and warned that the traffic delay could run as long as an hour.

According to Lawrence, the troubled truck was the cargo variant of the Marine Corps Oshkosh 10-wheel drive Logistic Vehicle System Replacement, also called an LVSR.

He said department officials think the vehicle is worth about $500,000, and estimate the damage at about $100,000.

Lawrence said the early investigation indicates that a power take-off unit failed, severing the hydraulic line. Fluid from the line ran about a quarter-mile back down the freeway.

Cleanup took about two hours.

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© 2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune