Fuel Truck Fire Closes 220 in Fincastle

By Elizabeth Rice

The news spread like fire last week. 477 crashes unfortunately occured between midnight and 3:45 PM in Virginia, but the most talked about crash was the crash with a fuel truck resulting in flames.

James Willard Yarbrough Jr. accidentally caused a fire on Wednesday, February 27th at 6:15 A.M on his way to Clifton. He was trying to avoid a deer but ended up wrecking on 2700 block of Botetourt Road in Fincastle, Virginia. He was charged with reckless driving as a result.

He was driving a truck filled with 8,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel. Luckily nobody was badly injured as the result of the fuel spilling and fire occurring, but 114 fish sadly died in Catawba Creek due to the gasoline.

There has also been a warning to not let livestock drink from the Catawba Creek until the water is announced to be safe to drink. Jason Ferguson who is the Chief of Fire Department EMS for Botetourt said, “The product was running off source by having these drains that would typically carry rainwater away to the creek bed.” and “we basically had a stream of liquid fire.” However since there is no wells close enough, people’s drinking water is still safe.

The fuel that spilled out of the truck also caused a pipe to break underground. Jason Ferguson said, “The large culvert pipe underneath the roadway supporting the primary road here because of the extensive fire load and heat- collapsed on itself.”

Jason Bond who is The Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman also explained the situation saying, “The tanker was hauling gasoline that spilled, caught fire, and flowed into a pipe from a drainage inlet in the median. The metal pipe passes beneath all four lanes of Route 220 near Route 676 (Peck Road/ Martins Lane). The burning fuel entered the pipe, flowed beneath the northbound lanes, causing the pipe to heat up, weaken and collapse.” He also said, “We’re going to have to replace the 110 feet of pipe on the northbound lanes, we don’t know if we can get to that pipe, we don’t have pipe of this type just ready to go.” and “Now we are able to put some stone in to make that traffic switch, we are going to have to come back at some point and pave those tie-ins between the lanes where it squeezes down to one lane in each direction.”

Roads will be closed until the damage on the roads is repaired. Southbound traffic will have to travel on Mary Alice Road then West Wind Road to Old Fincastle Road to return to Route 220. Northbound traffic will have to travel on Old Fincastle Road to West Wind Road to Mary Alice Road and return to Route 220.

Some residents of Fincastle spoke out about the accident including Scott Wilson who said, “he heard a “pretty big boom” and then saw heavy flames and smoke.”

A guy named Billy Simpson also spoke out saying, “All the neighborhoods were sitting and watching. It was like a sideshow.”, “The situation was bound to happen sooner or later, due to the Route 220 detour. We’re talking about 100 to 150 trucks a day, these roads are just not made for it. It’s an inconvenience but, we will deal with it.”

Interviews on the fuel truck’s accident and its impact on traveling

Q: What did you think about the accident?

A: Lexxi Bursey: “I thought the accident was unfortunate and I was concerned for the welfare of the driver and the environment.”

A: Meaghan Hix: “I am very happy that there was nobody hurt, and that it it didn’t do much damage even though there is a piece missing of the road on the south side of 220.”

Q: How did the road’s closure due to the accident impact you?

A: Lexxi Bursey: “The closure impacted me by delaying my arrival to destinations, making me leave earlier if possible, and often times it was not possible to leave earlier due to work. The detour provided by VDOT I thought was very inconvenient and I found Poor Farm Road to 220 in Fincastle to be much better. Because I don’t live very close to the accident, I don’t have many ways it impacted me directly or indirectly other than my daily commute.”

A: Meaghan Hix: “We had to go the long way to get anywhere. It took longer, and we had to leave earlier to get anywhere on time.”