Fuel tanker overturns in San Rafael, fiery disaster avoided

A San Rafael road was closed Tuesday after part of a fuel tanker overturned, blocking the roadway.

The San Rafael Police Department said that just before 2:30 a.m., the department began receiving calls about a partially overturned fuel truck on Northgate Drive between Freitas Parkway and Las Gallinas Avenue. Upon arrival at the scene, firefighters and police discovered that the rear fuel tank trailer had flipped onto its side, causing a fuel spill.

Police said that sand barriers were deployed to control the leak, though a strong fuel odor remained in the air.

The driver of the tanker, carrying 9,000 pounds of fuel, was not injured and cooperated with first responders. Authorities have not disclosed the cause of the vehicle overturning.

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A hazardous materials team was dispatched to clean up the spilled fuel, and arrangements were made to upright the tanker trailer.

Had a spark ignited the spilled fuel, it could have caused a fiery disaster. The scene of the spill is near Northgate One strip mall and right next to several other buildings. 

"The fact that we received phone calls right away and that we were able to get here within minutes and our fire department placing sand around the spilled fuel, I think, mitigated a lot of the potential hazard," said San Rafael Police Sergeant Justin Graham.

The spill forced the closure of the eastbound lanes of Freitas Parkway, throwing a giant monkey wrench into the morning commute. "I think we were fortunate," said Sergeant Graham.

The first order of business is to get the gasoline off the road. "Empty the small pond of fuel that we have here along with the sand that was used to keep it from spreading," said the officer.

The situation has since stabilized and the leaking has stopped. But early on, the smell in Santa Maurgerita Creek was that of raw gasoline. 

"As we know, fuel and water don't mix. So, it would have spread very quickly," said Graham.

Another important task was to keep any gas in the drains and sewers out of the creek. Graham said booms and absorbant pads were put in place to mitigate the spread. 

By mid-afternoon, the rolled trailer tank was hauled away by a huge tow truck to accommodate the cleanup. The cleanup will take hours. "Northgate Drive will remain closed during that time and we may be required to close down a small portion of eastbound Freitas Parkway between Las Gallinas and Del Presidio as the cleanup expands," said Officer Graham.


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