Truck ignites a series of fires along Interstate 8 - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Truck ignites a series of fires along Interstate 8

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LA MESA (CBS 8) – Westbound Interstate 8 was briefly closed near the El Cajon-La Mesa border Friday afternoon, while crews battled several small brush fires along the highway started by a pickup truck with a faulty catalytic converter.

The driver, a 37-year-old Santee man, entered the freeway at West Main Street shortly before 1 p.m. and headed west, unaware that emissions from his vehicle's tailpipe were igniting roadside foliage, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The motorist continued on for several miles before pulling off at Grossmont Boulevard. He then looked underneath the truck and realized that the catalytic converter was "glowing red" and the engine was burning, CHP public-affairs Officer Brian Pennings said. Several passers-by helped him douse the flames with a fire extinguisher.

By then, flames were moving up hillsides alongside the northern side of the freeway, briefly threatening a Mormon Church on Murray Drive in La Mesa and prompting administrators at nearby Grossmont High School to clear everyone off the campus as a precaution.

The westbound side of the route was fully closed while firefighters doused the blazes, which took about a half-hour, Saghera said. Trolley runs through the area also were delayed for about 20 minutes.

No structural damage or injuries were reported.

Administrators at a local evacuated high school got an all-clear shortly before 2 p.m., said Catherine Martin, a spokeswoman for Grossmont Union High School District. By then, it was the end of the school day for most students anyway, so the majority of them did not return to campus, Martin said.

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