With Route 17 closed in both directions, Bergen County HAZ-MAT team transferring gasoline from disabled tanker to the replacement tanker about 7:30 p.m.

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 situation.

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 traffic continued.

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 northbound.

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 Rescue.

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 unit.

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. ###

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