The driver of this semi-truck walked away unharmed last weekend, shortly before a fire gutted the vehicle. [Photo by Kiley Miller]

A truck driver who was hauling a load of pears and apples from Washington state to Texas escaped injury on Saturday, Aug. 20, shortly before his 2005 Freightliner Century Class semi-truck burst into flames south of Moab.

Francisco Rodriguez, 56, of La Joya, Texas, was traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 191 in the Bridger Jack area some time between 4:15 or 4:20 p.m. when he saw smoke coming out of the vehicle. After he descended the hill, Rodriguez pulled off the road just north of Hole N” the Rock and exited the vehicle’s cab. Not long afterward, the engine compartment caught fire, according to Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Ingersoll.

Emergency responders arrived at the scene within 15 minutes or so. Moab Valley Fire Department crews extinguished the fire using about 5,000 gallons of water, and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) fire crews also responded to the scene to ensure that the flames did not spread into the surrounding area.

“It was a pretty big ordeal,” Ingersoll said.

The fire completely destroyed the semi-truck’s cabin, and the combination of smoke, chemicals and water rendered the produce inside the truck’s 53-foot trailer worthless.

The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but mechanical problems are suspected.

Semi hauling fruit bursts into flames south of Moab