On Saturday morning, a shipment of medical supplies including N95 masks, as well as surgical gowns for healthcare workers, caught fire and burned.
A semi truck bearing the shipment traveled westbound through Tennessee over the weekend when the fire ignited. Though its final destination remains unreported, its location at the time of the fire was on Interstate 40 in Smith County, about 50 miles east of Nashville.
As first responders rushed to extinguish the flames, reporters descended on the scene. Photos reveal the extent of the damage. While firefighters stopped the fire short of reaching the trailer’s front end, the flames and smoke ruined the cargo. Boxes of charred N95 masks lay strewn across the asphalt, their packaging singed and made black. Gowns drape over the wreckage, their thin, green fabric dangling over mangled metal.
The frame of the back doors stands, while the roof and sides for the back half of the trailer peeled away to expose the interior.
Officials shut down two lanes of the westbound side of I-40 to deal with the wreckage.
Firefighters Battle to Save N95 Mask Shipment
Crews from 4 different fire departments joined together to fight against the flames. Officials state the cause of the fire came from the back tires after one sparked and spread into the trailer. While no one was hurt, the loss of vital protective equipment strikes a blow to the effort against covid-19.
N95 masks filter 95 percent of all airborne particles. Since the pandemic swept across the United States, these masks proved invaluable to healthcare workers on the front lines. As a result, shortages strained the ability of hospital staff to protect themselves.
Now, CDC guidelines recommend all members of the public also wear masks, though to use homemade versions and save vital, high-quality N95 masks to those that need them most.