Emergency crews successfully contain diesel fuel spill in Silverthorne
A small collision on Wildernest Road in Silverthorne nearly turned to disaster on Friday as gallons of diesel fuel flooded into the street in front of the 7/11 gas station.
Emergency crews from Summit Fire & EMS and the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District were able to respond and clean the spill in time, preventing any combustion of the hazardous materials in front of the gas station and stopping the fuel from pouring into the Blue River or the sewer system.
At about 8:30 p.m. on Friday, crews from Summit Fire & EMS were engaged in fighting a small structure fire at the Chateau Claire Condominiums in Dillon when they received a call about a hazardous materials spill on Wildernest Road, near the Interstate 70 interchange and the main ingress towards the Wildernest and Mesa Cortina subdivisions, said Chief Jeff Berino.
A Summit Fire crew was able to break away from the fire and respond to the call where they discovered a Toyota Tacoma and a semi truck had clipped each other, shearing off the top of the semi’s saddle tank (side mounted fuel tanks). The tank spilled about 60 gallons of diesel fuel into the road. Berino noted that diesel spills are somewhat preferable to gasoline or other hazardous materials spills due to its higher ignition temperature, though the spill’s proximity to both the gas station and the river were cause for increased concern.
“The number one goal was to identify the HAZMAT,” said Berino. “Had this been gasoline, like unleaded, it would have raised the safety issue. Gas ignites easier than diesel, which has a higher ignition temperature than gasoline. But we had a gas station right there, so we had to do everything we could to minimize ignition sources and stabilize the scene so it didn’t get any worse.”
Officers with the Silverthorne Police Department closed down Wildernest Road, rerouting residents of the Wildernest and Mesa Cortina subdivisions through 3rd and West 4th Streets to their homes. There were also some minor backups along I-70 as an influx of weekend visitors arrived, though the interstate remained open throughout the cleanup.
Crews with Summit Fire, along with a crew from Red, White & Blue who arrived with the county’s HAZMAT engine — a specialized engine that carries HAZMAT suits, air monitoring devices, non-sparking tools and absorbing materials in lieu of water hoses — spent about three hours cleaning the spill from the street.
Berino said that the process largely includes utilizing different tools to soak up the fuel. In this case, the crews used a “cat-littler” type material, absorption pads similar to big diapers and chemical booms like pool noodles to soak up the diesel fuel.
“We were able to use a combination of those items to soak up the diesel,” said Berino. “And our crews did a great job to keep it out of the river and out of the sewer system.”
In addition to the 60 gallons puddling on the street, the HAZMAT crew was also forced to contend with about 50 gallons of diesel that spilled inside the tank. Crews manually pumped out the remaining material into a fuel drum using a spark-resistant pump so they could move the semi.
Once emergency crews completed their cleanup, the diesel fuel and absorption materials were placed into bags and drums away from the road surrounded by fire tape, and a HAZMAT cleanup crew from Denver collected the materials for disposal.
One individual from the truck that collided with the semi complained about minor injuries, but declined transportation to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, said Silverthorne Police chief John Minor.
Berino said that hazardous material spills in Summit County are somewhat common, though typically deal with either smaller diesel spills from trucks coming through the tunnel, or more significant spills on the interstate.
“Most spills that we get involve overfilled gas tanks at service stations,” said Berino. “They’re fairly easy to mitigate until about 10 gallons, when it becomes a little more complicated. We get a higher number on the interstate. HAZMAT trucks can’t go through the tunnel, but semis do carrying tons of diesel for fuel. We’ll get a significant spill on Loveland Pass every couple years. But we get minor ones coming from the tunnel, where a semi loses its breaks and we have a diesel spill or something, every couple months.”
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