Chemical leak from rail car forces evacuations and full closure of 215 Freeway in Riverside County
By Marc Cota-Robles, David González
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PERRIS, California (KABC) — A chemical leak forced evacuations of more than 100 homes in Perris Friday morning and prompted the closure of the 215 Freeway in both directions. Officials said the issue could persist for a few days.
The hazmat incident started around 7:40 p.m. Thursday after reports of a chemical leak from a rail car near Harvill and Oleander avenues, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.
Officials identified the chemical as styrene, which overheated and could become volatile in that state. Officials said the chemical should be stored at 85 degrees, but it was last measured at well over 300 degrees.
During a Friday morning news conference, Chief John Crater with CAL Fire Riverside County said he spoke with experts across the country about potential impacts of the leak.
“What they’re telling me is this can resolve itself in two days. It could get worse before it gets better and they’ve also said due to the heat building in the car.. it could have a release, meaning some sort of violent explosion,” said.
In addition to the 215 Freeway being shut down between Van Buren Boulevard and Ramona Expressway, about 170 homes in the surrounding area were evacuated.
The evacuation order was in effect for homes north of Markham Street, east of Donna Lane, South of Nandina Avenue and west of Patterson Avenue.
“We heard a train car start spewing out white smoke and you could hear the pressure about a mile away,” said evacuated resident Michael Norton.
An evacuation center was set up at Pinacate Middle School at 1990 S. A Street.
Metrolink service was also impacted by the chemical leak and trains will be unable to travel through the area.
It’s unclear what caused the leak.
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