Skip to Content

Rail tank car chemical leak forces evacuation in California

PERRIS, Calif. (AP) — A section of a major Southern California freeway was shut down and nearby homes were under evacuation orders Friday as a chemical reaction inside a railroad tank car threatened to cause an explosion, authorities said.

The tank car was parked on a spur off a main rail line along Interstate 215 in Riverside County, about 57 miles (92 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.

County fire officials identified the chemical as styrene, which is used in making foam products.

John Crater, a fire division chief, said in a briefing that he had consulted experts across the country.

“What they are telling me is this can resolve itself in two days, it could get worse before it gets better,” he said.

The heat in the rail car builds pressure “and it could have a release, meaning some kind of violent explosion,” he said.

Firefighters were using drones with infrared imaging that showed the rail car is “red hot,” Crater said.

“It’s too dangerous for us to take any mitigation efforts or even approach it at this time,” he said.

The evacuation zone extended a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) in all directions and included 170 residences. The area has a mix of businesses and large plots of undeveloped land between the city of Perris and March Air Reserve Base.

The problem was discovered when a plume was seen coming from the rail car at about 7:40 p.m. Thursday. Authorities said the plume spread over Perris before dissipating.

Authorities said the chemical’s normal temperature is 85 degrees (29.4 Celsius) and the tank’s temperature had reached 323 degrees (161.6 Celsius) before declining to 304 degrees (151.1 Celsius) Friday morning.

Article Topic Follows: AP California

Associated Press

BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION

News Channel 3 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content