An evacuation order is in place for thousands of people in the Slocan Valley after a tanker carrying 35,000 litres of jet fuel spilled into Lemon Creek, ten kilometres south of the town of Slocan.
The evacuation order covers three kilometres on either side of Lemon Creek and the Slocan River from the junction of highways 3A and 6 to three kilometers north of Lemon Creek.
Originally, the evacuation order was limited to 300 metres on either sides of Lemon Creek and the Slocan River, with the regional district estimating that 800 houses would be affected.
The spill happened before 5 p.m. on Lemon Creek Forest Service Road. The tanker was heading to a site for helicopters to refuel while fighting a local wildfire. Officials estimate there were 35,000 litres of jet fuel in the tanker. The driver was airlifted from the scene with minor injuries, but the reason for it tipping over is unknown at this point.
“The fumes are a health concern, as well as the possibility of an explosion if the fumes accumulate in one area,” said Bill Macpherson of the Regional District of Central Kootenay, who said that officials were going door-to-door in the area to let residents know of the order.
“It’s primarily just precautionary,” he added. “Hopefully it’s fairly short-term because jet fuel does dissipate fairly quickly.”
“It’s a safe rather than sorry approach.”
Families are being evacuated to Castlegar, Nelson and Slocan depending on their location, and local schools and other public buildings are in the process of being opened to accommodate families.
Members of the RCMP were the first to attend the accident but couldn’t get close to the tanker because of fumes. The spill will impact water below the Lemon Creek bridge. Officials from the Ministry of Forests, Ministry of the Environment, and Emergency Management BC are coordinating a response, and a hazardous materials team in place. A cleanup company from Calgary is also en route to the scene.
GALLERY: Photos of the jet fuel tanker. All photos courtesy of the Nelson Star.