Wall of fire, 1985

Firefighters spray foam toward a gasoline tanker truck that overturned and caught fire on Route 128 in Peabody, Mass., in 1985.

Traffic was gridlocked and I had to get upwind to get this shot. So, I found my way along back roads to the next exit and drove the wrong way up the highway, since oncoming traffic was completely blocked.

This was long before we had GPS units, but I picked up directions from my police scanner, since emergency crews were taking the same route.

Searching for details online just now, I found this incredibly detailed narrative which recounts everything I can recall and much more: A Commuters Nightmare.

Finally, I don’t boast much, and maybe I just got lucky, but capturing this scene on film was no simple task. The blazing bright fire was the only light source in the dark of night, since the emergency vehicles were parked at significant distance from the wreck.

So, I kept firing my Vivitar 285 strobe at different settings as I took pictures — hoping one attempt would illuminate the foreground figures just enough — while simultaneously trying to catch an interesting moment. This was the only frame that came out just right.