Chemical leak forces evacuation in Riverside County amid possible explosion fears; 215 Freeway closed

Fire authorities said the possibility of an explosion following a rail car leak has shut down a part of the 215 Freeway and prompted evacuation orders for hundreds of residents in Riverside County.

Officials with Cal Fire said around. 7:40 p.m. Thursday, firefighters received reports about a chemical leak along the trail that parallels the 215 Freeway, at Harvill and Oleander avenues, near March Air Force Base. Fire officials conducted an investigation with a hazmat team and determined the chemical inside a tank was overheating and could explode.

In a 6 a.m. news conference, fire officials said the chemical was styrene – a chemical compound used to make latex, synthetic rubber and polystyrene resins. Officials later revealed the chemicals inside exceeded 300 degrees at one point Friday. 

Fire officials say the temperatures are slowly getting down – but not low enough to lift evacuation orders late Friday night. 

Metrolink trains are unable to travel through the evacuation area, impacting service to Perris. Friday’s passengers off train 701 between Moreno Valley and downtown Riverside are eligible to receive a reimbursement of up to $50.  

Partial Freeway Closure

The 215 Freeway is closed in both directions between Van Buren Boulevard to the north and the Ramona Expressway/Cajalco Road to the south. It's unknown how long the closure will be in effect. 

Evacuation Order

By 12:40 a.m. Friday, nearby residents were evacuated.

An evacuation order is in place for Perris residents who live in the area north of Markham Street, east of Donna lane, South of Nandina Avenue, and west of Patterson Avenue.

Out of an abundance of caution, students and staff were evacuated from Mead Valley Elementary School due to the chemical spill. Students were transported via bus to Citrus Hill High School for pickup.

The evacuation remained in effect as of 11 p.m. Friday.

Evacuation Center

A care and reception center was established at Pinacate Middle School located at 1990 S. A Street in Perris. 

Click here for updates from Riverside County Fire.