RV blaze on Belt­way halts traf­fic for hours

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY MARTIN WEIL martin.weil@wash­post.com

The Cap­i­tal Belt­way in Mont­gomery County not only turned into the prover­bial park­ing lot Satur­day evening, but it also be­came an im­promptu pic­nic area and recre­ation cen­ter, as traf­fic backed up for miles fol­low­ing a ve­hi­cle fire.

No in­juries were re­ported in the propane-fu­eled fire in an RV on the in­ner loop just be­yond River Road, said state po­lice Sgt. Ryan Shaf­fer. The fire was al­lowed to burn it­self out, Shaf­fer said. The cause of the blaze was not im­me­di­ately known.

The fire was re­ported about 5:20 p.m. Soon af­ter, traf­fic shut­downs be­gan to cre­ate long lines of cars on ei­ther side of the scene. At one point, all lanes were re­ported shut in both di­rec­tions.

“Wrong day to eat an un­der 100 calo­rie lunch,” said mo­torist Nicki Hicks, who joked that she was get­ting hun­gry and “about to crawl un­der the seat to find an old french fry.”

Af­ter about 50 min­utes of traf­fic stand­still, “we no­ticed peo­ple start­ing to get out of their cars,” said Joseph Otero, who was on his way to North­ern Vir­ginia.

Chil­dren played cards on the road­way, he said. In the empty in­ner loop lanes, Otero saw peo­ple “throw­ing soft­balls.”

Be­hind him was a car with peo­ple headed to a party, he said. They had cup­cakes, and in the spirit of the evening’s im­promptu amity, started hand­ing them out to other stalled mo­torists and their pas­sen­gers.

Af­ter al­most two hours, Otero said, traf­fic be­gan mov­ing. Af­ter driv­ing slowly past the scene of the fire, he saw the line of stalled cars that had been headed in the other di­rec­tion.

The line seemed to ex­tend all the way back to Tysons Cor­ner in Fair­fax County, he said, and “they weren’t mov­ing at all.”

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