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Driver escapes roadside blaze near Cannon Falls

Abdi Abokor touches what used to be the truck he drove for Midwest Carrier while a state trooper examines the wreckage. Abokor was driving the 2002 Freightliner bound for Winona, Minn., when it caught fire Monday along Highway 52.

LEON TOWNSHIP - Abdi Abokor knew he had to act quickly.

Heading south Monday morning on Highway 52 out of Cannon Falls, the Minneapolis man began to see and smell smoke rolling into the cab of the semi-trailer he was driving.

Abokor pulled the truck to the shoulder and got out with fire extinguisher in hand. He attempted to douse the blaze, but his fire extinguisher was no match for the flames.

Moments later, the truck was engulfed.

"I was glad that I pulled over so fast," Abokor said.

Within minutes, the rig was billowing thick black smoke from a fire that burned the truck down to its frame.

Even though it didn't contain the main fire, Abokor's attempt to douse the flames with his extinguisher probably helped it from reaching the trailer, said Cannon Falls Assistant Fire Chief Jeromy Mouw.

"Kudos to him for, A - having a fire extinguisher, and B - the guts to try to put it out," Mouw said Tuesday.

The fire, which occurred at 11:11 a.m., temporarily shut down a portion of the highway while fire crews extinguished the blaze.

Abokor, the truck's sole occupant, was unhurt. The fire damaged a portion of the trailer, which he said was carrying plastics in a run from the Twin Cities to Winona, Minn.

Mouw said protecting the load was firefighters' main objective once they reached the scene.

"We were able to accomplish that, which was great," he said.

But the 2002 Freightliner semi wasn't the only thing lost in the blaze, Abokor said.

In the commotion, he forgot to grab a personal laptop computer, which he said contained extensive family photos.

"There were a lot of memories on that laptop," Abokor said.

He suspected the fire began in the truck's fuse compartment.

"It was just so fast," he said.

Mouw said Abokor's description of the fire's ignition "sounds predictable," but noted that the incident remained under investigation