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COLONIE: Four-car pileup sparks fire

It took seven of Colonie's 12 fire departments and one Halfmoon company to quell and contain the fire that broke out after a four-car collision Monday, May 7, on Alternate Route 7.

First responders Latham Fire Department got the call at approximately 4:50 p.m. of a multi-car collision during rush-hour traffic on the busy thoroughfare cutting through Colonie.

The last vehicle to crash in the pileup had caught fire and was carrying highly flammable gases. Traffic was at a standstill in the westbound lane. There were no reported injuries in the pileup.

People were sitting in their cars; some had gotten out to take a look.

Upon arrival we saw the four-car accident and the fourth car on fire. It was being fueled by gasoline. The fuel line had ruptured, said Latham Fire Department Assistant Chief Dennis Kilcullen.

The truck's engine compartment and cab were engulfed in flames. The cause and fuel source of the initial fire is still being investigated, he said. It wasn't long before the flames and the heat caused two of the tanks, roughly 4 feet tall each, to explode, said Kilcullen. Those tanks were filled with acetylene and oxygen, commonly used for welding.

Residents living in the Graffin Drive area, which is separated by a noise barrier from the three-lane highway, began scaling the lower parts of the wall to get a look at the cause of the explosions and black smoke.

Luckily, no firefighters, emergency personnel or citizens were injured, said Kilcullen.

"It was a big bang," he said. 'The biggest problem was flare-ups and keeping everything cool. The problem was getting water."

The location of the crash limited access to fire hydrants so firefighters had to rely on apparatuses that could carry water to the scene to take the lead. Halfmoon's West Crescent Fire Department loaned its 1,000-gallon tanker truck. The remaining Colonie-based stations formed a supply chain to supply water to the scene. Fire retardant foam was also used to douse the flames.

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