A tractor-trailer fire near mile 17 on the Maine Turnpike in Wells shut down all three northbound lanes for two hours Friday and backed up traffic for at least 10 miles.

Seepaul Garbaran, 46, of Queens Village, N.Y., was hauling a trailer loaded with wooden pallets to the Poland Spring plant in Hollis when a driver pulled up beside him and signaled that something was wrong.

Garbaran pulled into the breakdown lane, got out of his truck and discovered flames under his rig, said state police Trooper Gavin Hager.

Hager said the fire was reported at 1:37 p.m. and eventually spread to nearby grass.

Garbaran escaped his rig without injury, but it took crews from at least eight firetrucks from Kennebunk, Wells, Ogunquit and York to extinguish the flames.

“The cab was burned right down to the ground,” Hager said.

He said the fire apparently started in the truck’s engine compartment, but the cause is still undetermined.

The northbound lanes of the turnpike were shut down by 1:49 p.m. Within 30 minutes, traffic was backed up to mile 13. Before long, it was at a complete standstill for miles. The baseball, softball and tennis teams from York High School were stuck in their vehicles on the way to games in Cumberland and Cape Elizabeth, and had to postpone their events.

“It’s just the worst timing — a Friday at 1:30 in the afternoon,” Hager said.

Hager said two of the lanes were reopened just before 4 p.m. A turnpike maintenance worker who started from mile 7 around 3:30 p.m. took nearly 2½ hours to drive the 10 miles to mile marker 17.

Workers on the scene Friday night were unloading the trailer and hauling off the remains of the charred cab.

Garbaran, the driver, was working for Sneider National Carriers Inc. of Gary, Ind.

 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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