An 18-wheeler burst into flames Monday afternoon, shutting down U.S. Highway 190 for several hours as firefighters dealt with the blaze.

The fire began about 2 p.m. Monday on the eastbound shoulder of the highway less than a mile west of Fort Hood Street. The driver had to be assisted out of the truck’s cab by a Fort Hood soldier as he attempted to grab as many personal effects as possible, according to an eyewitness.

The driver was later taken to Metroplex Hospital with smoke-related injuries. His condition was unknown late Monday.

Minutes into the fire, the fuel tanks burst, engulfing the entire front of the truck in flames and reducing it to ashes and melted remnants. The trailer also was badly damaged.

Firefighters required more than two hours to contain the fire and clean up the aftermath, leading to a shutdown of the highway that snarled traffic in both directions as cars were diverted onto side streets and forced onto access roads.

Killeen Fire Department Deputy Chief Kenneth Hawthorne said fighting the fire proved difficult because it was on the highway where fire hydrants are hard to access.

Two fire engines exhausted their water supplies, leading firefighters to close the eastbound access road so they could connect to a hydrant near Pershing Park Elementary School.

Contact Philip Jankowski at philipj@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.

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