FREDERICKTOWN — A tanker truck which overturned while carrying anhydrous ammonia Monday afternoon created a potential hazmat incident south of Fredericktown, causing emergency personnel to close several roads, including Ohio 13. Almost 200 homes near the scene of the accident were evacuated.
A hot zone, which is a potential imminent threat to life and safety, was declared in the area surrounding the overturned McIlvaine Trucking semitrailer. The truck carried 41,100 pounds of liquid anhydrous ammonia, a commonly used fertilizer which becomes a toxic vapor at temperatures above minus 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fredericktown fire and EMS personnel responded to the scene immediately after the accident was reported around 3 p.m. They found the truck overturned on its right side, on the west side of the roadway and off an embankment.
The driver of the vehicle, 47-year-old Alan Patrick of North Baltimore, lost control of the southbound vehicle. Tire tracks at the scene showed the truck went over the embankment and slid a long distance before spinning around and coming to rest off of the road.
Patrick was transported with minor injuries to Knox Community Hospital, where he was treated and released. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, he faces a charge of failure to control.
Because of the damage to the truck and the precarious nature of the hazardous substance inside the disabled vehicle, which weighs 70,000 pounds loaded, Fire Chief Scott Mast ordered the road closed, and requested Knox County Emergency Management to respond to the scene.
Fire crews initially blocked off Ohio 13 at Beckley Road to the south and the Ohio 95 bypass to the north. Those barricades were eventually extended once the scene was assessed by firefighters and emergency management.
Interim EMA Director Brian Hess arrived on the scene shortly after fire crews and helped develop an evacuation scenario. Initially, Mast ordered the evacuation of 10 homes along Ohio 13. High winds at the time of the accident and wet weather conditions were considered, along with the potential harm from the anhydrous ammonia should a vapor cloud develop from a leak.
Once the command of the situation was moved from the scene to the Fredericktown fire station, Hess and Mast consulted special computer software designed to help predict the spread of hazardous materials in varying amounts and conditions.
The Computer Assisted Management of Emergency Operations developed worst-case scenarios for the potential spread of the ammonia, and the evacuation area was expanded to include the potentially threatened area.
The Emergency Operations Center was activated by Hess around 6 p.m. to mobilize representatives from different county agencies, including the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, The OSHP, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Knox County Health Department and municipal governments.
Retired EMA Director Larry Hatton, a contracted consultant to Knox County EMA, served as the public information officer until Capt. Dick Brenneman of the KCSO assumed the post.
Brenneman provided information to citizens who called with questions. As the evacuation area extended to include 195 homes on Ohio 13; Bryant, Beckley and Green Valley roads; Crooked Street, Dean, Hyatt, Cassell and Upper Fredericktown roads, residents were referred to emergency Red Cross shelters which had been set up at the First Presbyterian Church in Fredericktown and The Salvation Army in Mount Vernon.
The Mount Vernon Fire Department was called upon for mutual aid. Chief Shawn Christy and Assistant Chief Chris Menapace assisted with road closings, which expanded along with the evacuation area. At one point, there were virtually no routes open between Mount Vernon and Fredericktown.
The College Township Fire Department paged all of its members to respond to provide standby coverage while the MVFD assisted on the south end of the area affected by the incident. The Jefferson Township Fire Department in Bellville also mobilized to provide standby coverage for other emergencies in Fredericktown.
At the Fredericktown firehouse, fire and EMS personnel responded to remain on station for the duration of the incident, which lasted into the early hours of this morning. Mast said 19 of his firefighters worked during the incident. Nine Fredericktown EMS personnel remained at the station on standby in case of casualties.
Around 10 p.m. a hazmat crew contracted by the trucking company began the process of offloading the ammonia onto another tanker. Two large wreckers from North End Garage in Wooster arrived to begin the process of removing the damaged truck.
While the offloading process continued, a Fredericktown fire crew stayed on the scene, wearing protective gear and air packs while watching for any leaking ammonia.
At the Fredericktown fire station, representatives of the Ohio EPA, the OSHP and the Department of Public Safety Motor Carrier Safety Division stood by as well.
Ohio EPA Senior On-Scene Coordinator Michael Dalton of the Emergency Response Unit remained at the fire station command center in case of any ammonia leak. The ammonia remained secure, and no hazard was released.
Around 11:45 p.m., Mast alerted the EOC the evacuation area was being reduced to allow many residents back into their homes. The area within a one mile radius remained evacuated for the duration of the incident.
Once part of the anhydrous ammonia was moved to the second tanker, the damaged tanker was lifted upright using cranes and cables wrapped around it. It was then moved to the wrecker and, once secure, was taken to Wooster with an OSHP escort, according to Mast.
The operation was wrapped up around 3 a.m. Ohio 13 was reopened at that time.