Evacuations lifted after reaction at Riverside County Railroad

Evacuation orders were lifted in Riverside County on Saturday morning after a chemical reaction inside a rail car parked on private property threatened to explode, forcing people from their homes two days earlier.

Officials said both directions of the 215 freeway in Paris reopened on Friday night, although the Harley Knox offroads remained closed on Saturday.

Officials continue to urge the public to avoid the area near Harville and Oleander Avenues, where on Thursday A railroad tank car carrying styrene, a highly volatile liquid commonly used in plastic and rubber products, heats up dangerously,

Officials were concerned that if heat and pressure continued to build up in the car, it could explode or form a chemical cloud that could spread to Paris and the Moreno Valley, said Captain Richard of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in Riverside. Cordova said. County.

Cordova said that when styrene is in transit, a stable chemical is added to it to keep it safe. The stabilizer has a lifespan of 45 days. But for unknown reasons, the chemical was in the rail car for 55 days, so the stabilizer lost its life, resulting in a reaction, he said. He said the car was parked on the tracks on private property where the contents of the trains are unloaded. He was unable to say who owned the property or the chemicals, but said the train originated in Texas.

Once officials were able to engage major players, including rail car and chemicals manufacturers, they learned that it was possible to hook a fire hose to a train, which has built-in coils that drive water through the tank, Cordova Told. He said that after installing the system on Friday evening, they were able to reduce the temperature inside the car from 350 degrees to 230 degrees. Styrene usually stays at around 85 degrees.

Cordova said the crew were monitoring the temperature using a drone, but as things cooled they were able to physically access the area and get more accurate readings using a thermal energy camera, Cordova said. he said. They said they were able to add more stabilizer to the styrene.

Cordova said crews continued to work Saturday to make the car as cool as possible, at which point a private hazardous team would unload the chemicals. He added that no long-term impact is expected from the leak.

Firefighters and hazardous workers responded with massive smoke emanating from a parked rail car at around 7:40 p.m. Thursday. Authorities ordered the evacuation of 170 homes and several businesses.

Cordova said the incident continued on Saturday, but the danger had diminished to such an extent that people could return home provided they stayed away from the area where the team was still operating.

Times staff writer Alexandra E. Petrie and Gregory Yee contributed to this report.

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