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A chemical leak shut down the California freeway, prompting evacuations

Officials declared a 1.5 mile emergency evacuation zone in California where officials evacuated about 170 residences near the leak.

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California authorities were forced to evacuate about 170 homes late Thursday night after a chemical leak shut down a major freeway.

At a press conference on Friday, Riverside County Fire Department Chief John Crater said that everyone had been safely evacuated.

On Friday, a section of Interstate 215 was closed due to a leak that occurred in the southern part of the state, close to San Bernardino.

The agency tweeted that a substance had leaked from a train car. According to the department’s website, the leak is currently being dealt with by the hazardous materials team and environmental health officials from Riverside County.

Crater said the substance was styrene, a chemical found in rubber and plastics, and that it should have been stored at 85 degrees Fahrenheit but was actually at more than 300. According to him, the wind carried the initial plume from the train car.

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Officials reported isolating the area and keeping an eye on the temperature, but they were still unsure of what caused the leak.

According to the fire department’s website, a shelter has been set up for evacuees at a nearby middle school.

Crater claims he consulted specialists from multiple states, all of whom assured him the problem would fix itself in a couple of days, but who also cautioned him about the potential for an explosion should heat and pressure build up inside the vehicle.

Thus, “we’re taking an abundance of caution with this,” he explained. “The situation is still very serious.”

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