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Home / leaking rail car

Evacuations canceled after hazardous chemical spill near Perris

Authorities canceled all evacuation orders Saturday for residents near Perris after it was determined that a hazardous and potentially explosive chemical that leaked from a rail car near a major freeway did not pose an imminent threat.

The spill at Harvill and Oleander avenues was first reported around 7:30 p.m. Thursday and led to the closure of Interstate 215 south of Van Buren Avenue and north of the Ramona Expressway, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

Harvill Road was closed, and evacuations were ordered north of Markham Street, east of Donna Lane, south of Nandina Avenue and west of Patterson Avenue, the fire department reported.

Authorities were initially worried that the chemical could potentially explode if it were to overheat, and said roughly 170 residences and businesses were evacuated within a roughly half-mile radius of the leaking rail car.

“This could resolve itself in two days, but it could get worse before it gets better,” Cal Fire Division Chief John Crater said at a news conference Friday morning. “They’ve also said due to the heat building in the car, that builds pressure and it could have a release, meaning some sort of violent explosion. That’s why we’re taking an abundance of caution with this.”

By 11:35 p.m. Friday, unified incident commanders of what was dubbed the Oleander Incident lifted all evacuation warnings and most of the evacuation orders, except for two homes. Officials also determined the contents of the railcar were not an imminent threat to I-215 and reopened the freeway in both directions.

On Saturday morning, fire officials said emergency crews located the train’s cooling mechanism and were able to bring down the temperature of the rail car to a stable level.

All remaining evacuation orders were lifted by 9 a.m. Saturday and fire officials said the evacuation shelter opened at Pinacate Middle School in Perris would be closing.

Metrolink officials said train service remained suspended through Sunday between the Perris South and Downtown Riverside stations and that no alternate service would be provided.

Authorities cautioned the public to avoid the area around the spill because emergency crews were still working nearby.

The cause of the leak remains under investigation.

Updated Aug. 13, 2022, 12:43 p.m.

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