The Almost Disaster
It could have been a disaster. But wasn’t.
On Friday afternoon, August 24th, about 2:18
p.m., a fully loaded gasoline tanker collapsed on Route 17
at the jug-handle across from White Castle.
The tractor became disabled and pulled onto
the shoulder. The driver lowered the trailer’s front
landing gear supports and disengaged the tractor from the
tanker trailer. A replacement tractor attempted to reconnect
with the tanker when the trailer’s landing gear supports
gave way. Both tractors pulled forward of the traffic signal.
The scene immediately surrounding the disabled
tanker was evacuated.
First responders took action of an unknown
Route 17 North was closed with traffic diverted
to Moonachie Avenue, along Hackensack Street/Terrace Avenue
and down Franklin Avenue back to Route 17 North.
Incident Commander, Second Assistant Chief
Kevin Todd, positioned available resources north of the incident.
Heights Rescue applied Speedy Dry around the
storm sewer opening to create a dam in case of a leak.
On Route 17 North, Heights Engine 2 dropped
a 5" hose, connected to a hydrant, connected a feed line
to the foam/crash truck, then charged the line for a stand-by.
Wood-Ridge Engine 905 connected to a hydrant on Route 17 South
and stood by and prepared to drop a 5" hose.
By 3:00 p.m., the remaining traffic caught
between the detour at Moonachie Avenue and the incident was
cleared and Route 17 North was fully shut down. Route 17 South
Assistant Chief Todd, several Bergen County
HAZ-MAT, HHPD and NJ DOT members did a close visual inspection
of the trailer and determined that no gas was leaking, assessed
the damage and developed a plan of action to safely deal with
the situation. South Bergen Zone 2 Fire Coordinator, Mark
Tomko, assisted with mutual aid company coordination.
The task was to find a compatible tanker on
a Friday afternoon, get it to the scene through grid-locked
traffic and off-load the product safely in terms of personnel
and the environment.
Lodi Foam Unit arrived at about 3:45 p.m.
and positioned south of the incident.
BC HAZ-MAT, using HHFD and Lodi thermal imaging
cameras and digital thermometers, continually assessed the
tanker’s load and temperature.
At about 4:14 p.m., BC HAZ-MAT covered the
three storm sewer drains near the incident with plastic sheathing
and NJ DOT trucks covered them with sand. This precaution
would protect the environment in case of spillage.
Three news helicopters were circling the scene.
With Route 17 North closed, traffic was creating
back-ups in New York City, and Trenton ordered relief. At
about 5:30 p.m., NJ DOT set up cones to open one lane of traffic
At about 5:43 p.m., a gasoline tanker from
Prospect Transport, Carlstadt, NJ, arrived on the scene. Unfortunately,
the tanker was also full of gasoline. With a Bergen County
Police escort, the tanker went up Route 17 to a Ridgewood
gas station to unload their product.
At about 7:00 p.m., the empty tanker returned,
positioned for off-loading, hooked up several grounding cables
to both vehicles and prepared transfer hoses.
BC HAZ-MAT technicians reviewed the off-loading
technique with the truck operators. The technicians stated
that they had this type of tanker event training.
HHFD Foam/Crash Truck prepared the foam-handling
hoses and positioned their firefighters on the north section
of the jug-handle. Lodi Foam Unit prepared themselves at the
south section of the jug-handle. Their primary objective was
that in case of an incident, they would be able to protect
the BC HAZ-MAT technicians who were on top of the disabled
tanker off-loading the gas.
At about 7:15 p.m., final preparations were
made to include shutting down all Route 17 traffic in both
directions, cordoning off and evacuating an ample safety area
for all emergency personnel on scene with the exception of
the truck operators, HAZMAT and firefighters operating the
foam unit positions.
At about 7:25 p.m., BC HAZ-MAT technicians
Thomas Bischoff Jr. and Scott Saunders stood on top of the
disabled tanker, inserted a suction hose and began off-loading
the gasoline product.
At about 8:45 p.m., the final batch of gasoline
was transferred to the replacement tanker, which then departed.
Emergency services then began breaking down the scene.
At about 8:52 p.m., the towing company began
their task of lifting the empty tanker, placing a miniature
"fifth wheel" (trailer hitch), reconnecting the
empty tanker for transport and departed at about 9:50 p.m.
Route 17 South was reopened about 9:15 p.m.
and Route 17 North was reopened at about 10:30 p.m.
Fire Departments responding to the scene were
Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department Foam/Crash Truck, Engine
1, Engine 2, Rescue and both ambulances, Lodi Foam Unit and
Engine 1; Hackensack Emergency Response Units, three Moonachie
Rescue/EMS units, Teaneck’s Box 54, Wood-Ridge Engine
905 and Garfield Engine 1, East Rutherford Truck 1 and Carlstadt
Police Departments responding included: Hasbrouck
Heights, Wood-Ridge, Bergen County and NJ State Police, in
addition to BC HAZ-MAT Team, BC Office of Emergency Management
Sgt. Barry D. Leventhal, and the NJ DOT emergency response
During the incident, Wood-Ridge Engine, Hackensack
Engine, Little Ferry Ladder and Moonachie Engine were on standby
at the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Headquarters to handle any emergencies.
It was noted that many businesses along Route
17 were adversely affected, i.e., The Fiesta had three receptions
scheduled that night. ###