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PORTLAND, Ore. — A semitrailer truck hauling fuel crashed on a roadway near a Portland railroad yard on Sunday, killing the driver and sparking a rail-car fire that sent up plumes of black smoke visible for miles.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the crash, Portland police said. It took firefighters several hours to extinguish the blaze, which began shortly before 9 a.m. in an industrial area along US Route 30. It burned just south of the iconic St. Johns Bridge over the Willamette River.

Nearby businesses were evacuated, the highway was closed, and a half-marathon race in the area was canceled as crews responded to the blaze.

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Dozens of firefighters rushed to the scene from around Portland and nearby Vancouver, Wash.

When the truck crashed, the unknown fuel it was carrying leaked underneath railroad tanker cars parked on the tracks, which run parallel to the highway, said Terry Foster, a spokesman for Portland Fire & Rescue.

The fuel ignited, burning eight rail cars, but none of the liquid asphalt they contained leaked out, Foster said. ‘‘The semi truck appeared to have gone off the road and crashed into the parked rail cars,’’ he said.

The affected rail line is owned by Portland & Western Railroad, which operates a number of short-line railways in Oregon. The P&W main line was not hit, and the company does not expect any customers to be affected, said Mike Williams, a spokesman for parent company Genesee & Wyoming Inc.

The area’s main railroad line, which carries 30 passenger and freight trains a day nearby, was not affected.

Associated Press