SPEARFISH An elderly couple escaped without injury from their RV when it caught fire as they were traveling on Interstate 90 Thursday. 

Spearfish Fire Department Assistant Chief Rob Mathis said the fire started at the 2019 Ford F-150, which was being towed behind the 2003 Safari Panther.

“I’m not 100% sure of how it started,” he said. “It could be one of about four or five different things.”

Mathis said the fire was likely ignited by some component of the pick-up’s wheel system seizing and causing friction.

Emergency crews responded to a call around 3 p.m. of an RV on fire on the highway.

The couple driving the RV eastbound said just as they crossed the Wyoming border into South Dakota, they noticed smoke coming from the rear of the vehicle. By the time the driver had pulled off onto the shoulder, the truck was fully engulfed in flames.

“The fire started at the truck, the truck became fully involved and then it started the motorhome on fire,” Mathis said.

The driver was able to remove the one other passenger, his wheelchair-bound wife, from the RV before emergency responders arrived.

Mathis said the driver closed the door to the RV after removing his wife, which reduced the spread of the fire throughout the recreational vehicle. 

“His actions, whether he realizes it or not, actually helped us,” Mathis said.

By the time Spearfish fire crews arrived on scene the aluminum chassis of the pick-up was almost completely melted, so Mathis instructed his team to attack the flames on the RV first.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from my guys, they did everything spot on,” he said.

Mathis estimated the pickup and RV to be a total loss of around $400,000-$500,000; however, he said the entire event was successful as there were no injuries sustained by any civilians or first responders, and the interdepartmental cooperation between first responders.

“We knew 100% what we were rolling into, which is the way it should be,” Mathis said.

The couple and their adult son, who was traveling in a separate vehicle with them, were all directed to local lodging for the night by the Spearfish fire crew.

The Beulah, Wyo., Volunteer Fire Department, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, Highway Patrol, Game, Fish & Parks, and Spearfish Ambulance Service also responded to the call

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