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1,500 Kootenays' residents ordered to evacuate after oil spill in Slocan Valley

Zoe McKnight, Vancouver Sun July 27, 2013

Tanker was carrying 35,000 litres of jet fuel to helicopters working on the Perry Ridge fire

A state of emergency has been declared after a tanker truck carrying 35,000 litres of jet fuel in the Slocan Valley has overturned on Highway 6, spilling its load into Lemon Creek.

Officials in the Central Kootenay region issued an evacuation order around 9 p.m. Friday affecting about 1,500 people.

Authorities had initially said approximately 800 people living within 300 metres of area waterways were affected by the order, but that zone was later widened to cover about 2,500 people living within 3 kilometres of area waterways due to health concerns related to fumes from the jet fuel.

That evacuation area was reduced this morning to include only those within 800 metres of area waterways.

A precautionary do not use order was issued to all users of water supplies within 10 km downstream of the accident site.

The evacuation area is “fairly broad but strictly precautionary,” said MacPherson. It was ordered by the regional medical officer of health.

Macpherson said there are health concerns, especially with fumes in confined spaces and there's "always the potential of the explosiveness of the fumes."

Residents affected by the evacuation order are being asked to go to emergency centres being set up in three area schools.

Macpherson said the order is mandatory, however, anyone over the age of 16 can refuse to leave if they so choose.

Before the crash, the truck was destined for fire crews working a nearby wildfire, according to Macpherson.

But now “the truck is in the creek,” he said, and the fuel has made its way downstream into the Slocan River.

The RCMP first received a call around 5 p.m. Friday and local fire departments are on scene.

Those waterways are often primary water sources for local residents, Macpherson said.

The regional district is coordinating with provincial agencies and a Vancouver hazardous material team is currently working to contain the spill.

“The RCMP, who were first on the scene, were unable to get too close due to the fumes,” Macpherson said.

The truck was bringing jet fuel to helicopters working the Perry Ridge fire, said Jordan Turner of the Southeast Fire Centre in Castlegar. He was unable to confirm the extent of the spill but noted that residents downstream were being informed of the situation.

zmcknight@vancouversun.com

With files from The Canadian Press

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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