A large fuel spill from a rolled semi forced an eight-hour closure of the highway between Warfield and Rossland on Saturday.
The 911 came into Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue just after 10:30 a.m. that day with reports of a high mechanism rollover incident on Highway 3B near the gravel pit just up the hill from Warfield.
The semi-trailer was loaded with food items destined for a Trail grocery store when the vehicle went on its side and slid between 100 feet to 120 feet down the hill, Fire Chief Terry Martin told the Trail Times Monday morning.
By the time the truck came to a stop, all four lanes of traffic were blocked and fuel was pouring onto the highway, said Martin.
The driver was able to exit the semi’s cab with minor injuries, and was later transported to the hospital by BC Ambulance.
The major concern for rescue teams at that point was containment of diesel fuel that was freely escaping one of the truck’s tanks.
“It was coming out of the actual fuel cap,” explained Martin. “Unfortunately the one tank emptied while the truck was laying on its side. And the brakes were really hot so we were concerned with that ignition source.”
He said a quantity of fuel entered the ditch and saturated soil prior to the crews’ arrival. Once on scene, firefighters from Trail and Rossland utilized Hazmat materials such as booms and pads for fuel absorption and they created makeshift dams from dirt to ebb the flow away from the roadside.
“The fuel didn’t get into the waterway which goes down to Trail Creek, “he confirmed. “That was our concern but it didn’t get that far. But they will have to do some remediation work in the ditch where the fuel soaked in.”
Once Emcon Services and the RCMP Commercial Vehicle Inspector team (CVI) arrived, fire crews remained on standby at the site until after 6 p.m.
“It was very fortunate all around, the driver wasn’t hurt and nobody got hurt driving up the hill,” said Martin. “Unfortunately, it put a lot of people in a bad way having to go around through Castlegar with the highway shut down for that length of time,” he added. “But it was all required.”
Police continue to investigate the accident and await the CVI report before determining possible charges.