The northbound Niagara Thruway was closed for more than two hours Thursday as two trailers carrying 16 new cars caught fire -- destroying eight of them, State Police Sgt. Phil Bourque said.
The fire, which was traced to a brake malfunction, caused an estimated $250,000 damage to the cars, trailers and highway, said Chief David Rinker of Niagara Active Hose Fire Co.
An estimated $160,000 damage was done to the cars and another $15,000 to the cars that weren't destroyed. The trailers sustained about $30,000 damage and the roadway about $45,000.
"It melted the blacktop," Rinker said.
No injuries were reported, Bourque said.
Police closed down the northbound lanes between the Niagara Falls Boulevard and Porter Road exits from 12:15 to 2:50 p.m. The southbound lanes were closed for about an hour because of the smoke drifting into that area, Bourque said.
The Leaseways Auto Carrier rig, apparently en route from Ohio to the company's Witmer Road, was traveling behind the Prime Outlets Mall when the fire broke out, Bourque said.
The rig apparently developed a brake problem at the bottom of the Grand Island Bridge.
According to William Manth, a Niagara County fire investigator, a brake malfunction caused a wheel on the first trailer to lock up and the heat buildup started the fire.
Firefighters from several departments used foam and water from two tankers to extinguish the blaze. Foam brought by the U.S. Air Force Base Fire Co. kept the undamaged cars from burning.