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Warfield crisis averted due to "textbook" emergency managment, says chief

Photo courtesy Brian Craig

A potential very volatile situation near Warfield yesterday had minimal impact because of emergency crews' textbook management of the crisis, according to Kootenay Boundary Region Fire Rescue Chief Terry Martin.

Martin said they got the 9-1-1 call at 1:30 p.m., informing them that a tanker truck containing 24,000 litres of gas and 5,000 litres of diesel was sliding backward down the Warfield Hill (Highway 3).

“The driver was doing everything right, he had his chains on, and Emcon was all over the road – it's no one's fault, it was just an intense snow storm,” he said. “The driver made it almost to the top of the hill, then started to spin out, so he pulled over.”

The driver was hauling two tankers of fuel, so when he pulled over, he disconnected the second tank and drove the single remaining tank to a safe offloading place, then returned for the second tank.

“Unfortunately, when he was backing up, he bumped it, and it slid 30 or 40 feet down the highway. The front jacks were damaged as well,” Martin said, adding the plumbing to facilitate offloading the fuel was also damaged.

Emergency crews shut down the highway, activated the regional district emergency plan, and issued evacuation alert for about 25 nearby homes. Emcon brought in two truckloads of gravel, allowing crews to construct a berm downhill of truck, in case any fuel leaked onto the highway, and a company was called in to offload the gas (leaving the diesel, as it was easier for the tow-truck driver if the tanker still had some weight).

In the event, Martin said, no fuel at all was spilled on the highway, no one was injured, and the event culminated as successfully as they could have hoped.

“I couldn't be more happy with the result,” he said.

The evacuation alert was lifted at about 10 p.m., and the highway was reopened shortly thereafter.

“It's one of those incidents that escalate very quickly,” he said, adding a shout-out to alll the agencies who stepped in to help: RCMP, BCAS, Emcon, MoT, City of Trail and Village of Warfield Public Works.