A tanker carrying about 9,000 gallons of gasoline overturned in a traffic circle and exploded into flames early Wednesday, sending forth a torrent of fire that ignited at least two multifamily homes and as many as 40 cars.
Residents of a nearby neighborhood were hastily evacuated, and there were no reports of any deaths or serious injuries.
"In consideration of everything the firefighters at the scene had to deal with, I think it's a miracle that we haven't seen any serious injuries,'' Everett Fire Chief David Butler said at a news conference.
The accident occurred shortly after 1:30 a.m. at the rotary connecting Routes 16 and 99, Butler said.
At daybreak, a large plume of black smoke hovered over the area just north of Boston, as firefighters continued to battle the blaze in one of the multi-family homes. Their efforts initially were hampered by frozen hydrants and icy conditions with the temperature well below freezing.
Among those evacuated were 84 residents of an elderly housing complex that was threatened, but did not burn, Butler said.
Evacuees were brought to a nearby armory for shelter, and the Red Cross was assisting them.
State police were investigating the accident, but initial reports indicated that speed might have been a factor.
"We do have a witness that indicated that the truck was traveling at an excessive rate of speed,'' said Maj. Kevin Kelly.
The driver lost control of the tanker, flipped over and struck a guardrail, said Kelly, who added that roads were dry at the time.
The tanker was destroyed in the fire, but the driver was able to escape.
The rotary was closed for several hours after the crash but Kelly said police hoped to at least partially reopen it for the morning commute.
Butler said there was concern that some of the fuel got into storm drains. State environmental officials and the Coast Guard were called to the scene to assess the situation.
Everett is a city of approximately 38,000 residents just outside of Boston.
This program aired on December 5, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.