It has been a busy year so far for area emergency crews with several wrecks along Interstate 90. They include a morning semi-truck crash on New Year’s Day. The incident blocked one lane of traffic near Mile Marker 28 just 16 miles east of Haugan until 1:30 p.m. A semi-truck carrying kegs, bottles and cans of beer was traveling too fast for the icy conditions and jack-knifed. It went off the interstate and tipped over at approximately 10 a.m.
The truck landed dangerously close to electrical lines and power needed to be cut before West End emergency crews could retrieve the truck. The driver was not injured. The tow truck called to remove the semi broke down and it was not removed from I-90 until the following day.
By 11 a.m. crews were called to another incident just a mile away — at Mile Marker 29 — where a semi-truck hit an elk. No injuries were reported. By 11:30 a.m. another incident, a slide-off, was reported further west at Mile Marker 17, again with no injuries. Two more incidents occurred on New Year’s Day at 3 p.m. at Mile Marker 21, and at 7 p.m. at Mile Marker 7 near Lookout Pass.
FOUR WRECKS were reported to Montana Highway Patrol on Jan. 2, and five more on Jan. 3. They included an early-morning semi-truck fire near Haugan. The truck driver, Mark Cielke with Sweet Ride Logistics, was driving just west of Mile Marker 33 when he heard his tires pop and airbags explode. He pulled over in the westbound lane to find his trailer on fire at approximately 6:40 a.m.
He grabbed his fire extinguisher and tried to combat the flames without success. Another truck driver then pulled over and offered his extinguisher. But Cielke could not get the flames under control, according to his son, Shawn Cielke. He finally dropped the trailer and moved his truck to safety and waited for the St. Regis Volunteer Fire Department to arrive around 7:40 a.m.
The truck was carrying nearly 30,000 pounds of raw chicken breasts from Sanders Chicken out of Waco, Texas. The cargo was completely destroyed.
Five more incidents were reported on Jan. 3 — between the Idaho-Montana border and Superior. That resulted in 28 total reports along I-90 in Mineral County as of Jan. 4. West End emergency crews had been called out nine times within the first three days of 2019.
“Our resources have been stretched pretty thin,” said Jerry Dockter with the St. Regis Volunteer Fire Department at a recent Emergency Planning Committee meeting.