On The Job - California:

Michael J. Peel reports on the response to a gasoline tanker rollover on a busy interstate highway entrance ramp.


RIALTO FIRE DEPARTMENT Chief: David R. Lugo Personnel: 75 career firefighters Apparatus: Four engines, one truck, three ALS ambulances Population: 90,000 Area: 28 square miles It was a calm spring evening in the city of Rialto, CA. All day long, medical aid calls had consistently been...


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RIALTO FIRE DEPARTMENT
Chief: David R. Lugo
Personnel: 75 career firefighters
Apparatus: Four engines, one truck, three ALS ambulances
Population: 90,000
Area: 28 square miles

It was a calm spring evening in the city of Rialto, CA. All day long, medical aid calls had consistently been coming into the headquarters fire station (Station 201). Except for the medical aid calls, it was a relatively quiet shift. The crew at Station 203 was preparing for the annual Pyro-Spectacular Buyer's Fireworks Show on the grounds of the local airport.

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Photo courtesy of the California Highway Patrol
First-arriving units found that a tandem-trailer gasoline tanker truck loaded with 8,800 gallons of gasoline had overturned on the entrance ramp to westbound Interstate 10 at Riverside Avenue.

At approximately 6 P.M. on April 14, 2000, a tandem-trailer gasoline tanker truck loaded with 8,800 gallons of gasoline entered the entrance ramp to westbound Interstate 10 at Riverside Avenue. The tanker, operated by Van Dyk Oil Company of Rialto, was hauling fuel for Union 76. It had just filled up at the Kinder-Morgan Energy Partners tank farm, about a half mile to the south, and was headed for fueling stations to deliver its load. The front trailer carried 4,000 gallons of gasoline and the rear trailer carried 4,800 gallons.

The westbound entrance ramp at this location has been the site of numerous rollovers in the past. As the northbound truck was turning onto the ramp, the outward-banked ramp caused a slight shift of the vehicle's load. Although the rig was only about a year old, the trailer sustained a broken rear axle leaf spring while making the turn. The resultant drop in the trailer on the right side, coupled with the outside bank of the ramp, caused it to roll 180 degrees before coming to rest on its rollover rails.

A call was received from dispatch at 6:01, notifying the Rialto Fire Department of an overturned tanker truck on the I-10 on ramp. Rialto Engine 201, Medic Ambulance 201 and Battalion Chief 804 were on the initial response. The battalion chief immediately called for Rialto's aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) unit (F203) and an additional engine to respond.

F203, housed at the city's airport fire station, features a 750-gallon tank and foam proportioner mounted on a 1987 Chevrolet truck chassis. Including five-gallon container storage, F203 has the capability of carrying 840 gallons of AFFF. Each Rialto engine carries two five-gallon containers of AFFF.

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Photo courtesy of the California Highway Patrol
An immediate priority was to isolate the area by shutting down all access routes to the scene.

BC804 was the first to arrive at the scene. He positioned his command vehicle across both southbound lanes of traffic at Riverside Avenue and Valley Boulevard, approximately 300 yards north of the incident. Law enforcement was immediately requested for traffic control, and all incoming units were placed in level 1 staging, about a quarter mile to the north. Winds were blowing from the west at 2-3 mph.

As the battalion chief walked toward the incident to size-up the situation, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer arrived at the incident. The trailer, lying on its roof and still connected to the truck, did not appear to be leaking. BC804 made contact with the CHP officer and requested a supervisor to the scene. Sergeant Tom Cunningham arrived shortly thereafter, and a unified command structure was established to manage the incident. The incident was dubbed "the "Riverside Incident," and BC804 was designated as "Riverside IC" (incident command) for fire department operations. The tanker was determined to be on freeway property, so the CHP sergeant was designated as scene manager.

Isolating The Scene

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