Fireworks-filled van explodes on California freeway

BARSTOW, Calif. (AP) – A box van packed with fireworks exploded and burned to the ground on a Southern California freeway Thursday, clogging the main road between Los Angeles and Las Vegas at the beginning of the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The Chevrolet van caught fire shortly before 1:30 p.m. Thursday on southbound Interstate 15 near the Nevada border, briefly closing southbound lanes for nearly an hour and backing up traffic several miles into Nevada, said California Highway Patrol Officer Ryan Camara. No one was injured.

San Bernardino County firefighters found the van entirely engulfed in flames and the popping sound of fireworks going off, said spokeswoman Tracey Martinez.

Jay Rutherford was driving to Los Angeles on tour with his Nashville, Tennessee-based band Los Colognes when the five-member group saw billowing smoke and stalled traffic ahead.

They drove by at 15 mph, watching sparks and “psychedelic” explosions coming from the van parked on the side of the freeway. Their guess was the sparks were the result of fireworks or an ice cream truck that caught fire.

“We thought it was a truck filled with fireworks that got too hot because of the way sparks were spiraling out of it,” Rutherford said. “There were mini sparks and explosions going on. It appeared alive and dynamic unlike other road fires I’ve seen.”

The van driver fled before authorities arrived and hasn’t been found.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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