On December 18th at approximately 6:30 in the morning we were called for a reported commercial vehicle accident with fire involvement. The accident happened on Interstate 10 which is a 2-lane freeway on an uphill portion of the roadway. We responded with a squad, pumper tender and a water tender. On scene we discovered two commercial vehicles were involved in the accident. The first commercial vehicle have been struck from behind by the second commercial vehicle. The first vehicle was in the slow lane of traffic and was hauling antifreeze and oil products that were spilled all over the road. The second vehicle caught fire at impact the driver was trapped and subsequently died in the fire. The cargo of the second commercial vehicle was plastics inside a sealed sea container. When we arrived on scene the tractor was fully involved but there was no fire in the trailer yet just heavy impingement to the front of the trailer. Fire attack was made with CAFS with 2 1 3/4″ lines running approximately 100 GPM per line. Fire in the tractor was quickly knocked down. And lines were moved to the back of the trailer to open up the sea container and check the cargo. The back of the trailer was opened up and heavy grayish black smoke escaped from the trailer. I had a firefighter and a captain and full PPE and SCBA check the cargo. They were spraying water inside the trailer to cool down the interior. After approximately two to three minutes of the back doors being open I noticed that my firefighter and my captain did not have hand lights. I secured two hand lights from the truck and brought them down to the operations area. I handed both lights to my personnel and received a report that the cargo was rolled sheets of plastic. I’m turned around to walk away. I was approximately 10 to 12 foot from the back of the trailer when a backdraft explosion happened out of the trailer. I immediately went to the ground as did my firefighter and Captain. They were completely uninjured but I received second-degree burns to the backs of my hands the back of my neck and facial area.
Lessons Learned. Be extremely cautious with sea containers as they are not your standard commercial trailer. They are double-walled and insulated and have a higher susceptibility to flash over and backdraft. I also feel that the delayed backdraft two to three minutes after the doors being opened had to do with the angle of the trailer on the hill.