Riverside County chemical leak: Freeway reopened, evacuations lifted

The 215 Freeway in Perris in Riverside County has been reopened and evacuation orders have been lifted after fire officials said a rail car leak threatened an explosion in the Inland Empire community.

Parts of the Freeway were shut down and hundreds of residents were evacuated Thursday night after Riverside County Fire officials received reports of a chemical leak from a car on a rail line that parallels the 215 freeway. The leak happened at Harvill and Oleander avenues, near March Air Force Base. After an investigation, hazmat crews determined that the chemical inside one of the tanks was overheating and could potentially explode.

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

Late Friday night, Cal Fire officials reported that "the contents of the railcar ar not an imminent threat to I215," and both directions of the freeway were reopened, but some evacuation orders were still in effect. By Saturday morning however, officials lifted the remainder of the evacuation orders.

In a news conference Friday, fire officials said the chemical was styrene – a compound used to make latex, synthetic rubber and polystyrene resins. Officials later revealed the chemicals inside exceeded 300 degrees at one point Friday. Temperatures continued to decrease throughout Friday, eventually leading to the lifting of evacuation orders Saturday morning. 

Metrolink trains are still unable to travel through the evacuation area as of Saturday, impacting service to the area. Friday’s passengers off train 701 between Moreno Valley and downtown Riverside are eligible to receive a reimbursement of up to $50. Metrolink service is expected to resume on Sunday, Aug. 14.

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