More than a dozen people were being treated at a hospital Tuesday morning after a vacuum truck exploded in Santa Paula, spraying an unknown combustible white liquid chemical and triggering a fire and several explosions.
Two drivers were in the truck when it exploded around 3:30 a.m. at the Santa Clara Waste Water Company at 1141 Cummings Road, spraying what at first was believed to be sewage. The substance was later found to be a white liquid that crystallized and became combustible.
After several small explosions, a fire spread through the business’ industrial yard, prompting shelter-in-place warnings and road closures due to concerns over exposure to the unknown chemical.
Evacuations are mandatory for a one-mile area around the explosion scene and residents and workers within 2-3 miles are being advised to shelter in place.
As a precaution, students from Briggs School District have been released early and sent home with their parents.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department hazardous materials crew is traveling to Santa Paula to assist.
Two people were hospitalized from the initial explosion, as well as three firefighters. The ambulance driver was later hospitalized due to respiratory troubles. Twelve hospital workers were also
treated after they complained of respiratory distress.
The extent of the injuries is not clear. People were evacuated for half a mile around the initial explosion. Highway 126 from Peck Road to Wells Road was closed for more than four hours as winds spread the chemicals.
After it crystallized, the unknown substance became extremely combustible, and firefighters were faced with small explosions and fires.
“From time to time you begin to see white smoke,” said Capt. Mike Lindbery, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department. “I think things are continuing to ignite down there.”
From CBS LA:
A vacuum truck explosion Tuesday forced the evacuation of a neighborhood and businesses and sent several people to the hospital in Ventura County.
Approximately 1,000 gallons of an organic peroxide exploded from the truck at 3:46 a.m. at the Santa Clara Waste Water Company, 815 Mission Rock Road, in Santa Paula, the Ventura County Fire Department said.
The chemical, which is unstable and has sparked spontaneous explosions, spread across a 300 to 400-foot radius.
“Its water reactive. If we were to put water on it, there is potential that we would accelerate the reaction,” said Capt. Mike Lindberry of the VCFD. “Right now, we are letting the areas on fire burn down.”
Authorities issued a mandatory evacuation for residents within one miles of the scene. The Red Cross has set up a shelter for residents at 530 W. Main Street in Santa Paula.
Those living two to three miles downwind of the location were advised to shelter in place.
A man inside the truck, an ambulance driver and three firefighters were transported to the Ventura County Medical Center with injuries. Another truck passenger was treated at the scene.
Officials said the chemical has also sickened at least 12 hospital employees at the VCMC emergency room. The hospital was working to contain the ER in order to prevent the chemical from affecting additional personnel, Ventura Fire Department Chief Douglas Miser said.
“Patients are walking into other facilities that weren’t treated on scene. It’s very common in these types of incidents that patients can leave the scene thinking nothing’s wrong . . . then show up at hospitals,” nurse Sara Melgosa said.