Evacuation in Rainsville

Evacuation in Rainsville

Marla Jones, Managing Editor


RAINSVILLE, ALA.-- On Thursday, August 18, at approximately  9:30  a.m., an 18-wheeler overturned, at the intersection of Alabama 75 and Alabama 35 in Rainsville. 

As Rainsville Fire and Police Department arrived on the scene it was discovered that there may be a potential chemical spill. The placards determined that the chemicals being transported were organic peroxide, 30% concentrate. The DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) was notified. 

“After evaluation of the scene, I advised Rainsville Police Chief Michael Edmondson to evacuate 800 feet in every direction of the accident” stated Rainville Fire Chief Williemac Wright. 

“We set up monitor guns to help control the vapor cloud and to try to keep temperatures cool.  We brought in sand and dirt to try to control the water runoff”.  

When EMA arrived, communication began with the trucking company on mitigation efforts for a cleanup.  Around seven hours after the incident started,  a cleanup crew from Atlanta and Nashville were brought in to clean up the chemical spill.

“We had to shut down business in the immediate area. This was a hard thing for us to do.  We know this is a small town with a lot of small business owners but for their safety and for customers, we had to do that” stated Rainsville Police Chief Michael Edmondson. 

“Hard decisions were made about rerouting traffic but for safety reasons, we had to do that.  We had so many officers from different municipalities and from the County” continued Edmondson.

“It probably looked chaotic from the outside but it actually went pretty good”.

Organic peroxide is used in different concentrates in meat and poultry plants.  This particular concentrate is used as heating of itself for a fire. It is a strong oxidizer and is highly combustible. Organic Peroxide is harmful if swallowed or inhaled or comes in contact with skin. Some of the symptoms of exposure are irritation to the eyes and nose, nausea, and headache. The Fire Department wore full turnouts around the trucks as they maintained the level of operations. 

The sand and dirt that were used to control the water runoff are stored in dumpsters in front of the Bevil center in Rainsville. Once permits have been obtained the sand and dirt, will be hauled to a disposal site specifically for chemicals. There is no danger to the public due to all residual chemicals being pumped into containers that were transported from the site

 During the 24-hour period, the Rainsville Fire Department alone received six calls while continuing to monitor the chemical spill. Calls ranged from medical, wrecks, and industrial fire.  The fire was controlled quickly and over fourteen fire personnel were back on the scene of the incident. 

Early Friday morning, the chemicals were transported to a holding lot in Fort Payne.

 “The transportation of chemicals was out of our hands. This was between the cleanup crew, the trucking company, and the service that hauled to Fort Payne” stated Chief Wright. “Those decisions had nothing to do with the City of Rainsville”. 

 Friday, mid-morning, smoke was detected at the holding site at Fort Payne. 

“ The chemicals built up pressure and gases were released.  The area was shut down and two businesses were evacuated” stated Fort Payne Police Chief Davis.

Chitwood Street, 12th Street SE, 13th SW, and Lowe Street SE  in Fort Payne, were closed during the cleanup. 

“The spill has been cleared.  All chemicals have been transported out of state” reported Chief Davis at 4:50 p.m. on Friday. 

While the final cost of the spill is unknown at this time, it is clear that all agencies in the DeKalb and surrounding areas work extremely well together in a time of need. 

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