Fernley tanker fire forces evacuations

Howard Salmon/Appeal News Service Firefighters attempt to control a fire on a liquified natural gas truck near Fernley on Wednesday.

Howard Salmon/Appeal News Service Firefighters attempt to control a fire on a liquified natural gas truck near Fernley on Wednesday.

FERNLEY - Hundreds of people evacuated their homes and businesses in Fernley and traffic was diverted throughout Churchill and Lyon counties Wednesday after a tanker truck leaking pressurized liquid natural gas caught fire near Interstate 80.

The fire was contained and traffic returned to normal by 4:30 p.m. No injuries were reported.

A spark from an unknown source ignited fuel leaking from a 10,000-gallon tanker in the parking lot of the Truck Inn truck stop near I-80 around 11 a.m., according to Associated Press reports.

A hazardous materials team was attempting to fix the leak when the fire started, said Martin Jensen, interim Lyon County fire marshal.

Responding to risk of explosion, officials evacuated the area up to one mile from the fire.

"We're not going to risk anybody's life for a truck or a couple of buildings," said Chief Jim Lemke of the North Lyon County Fire District.

Fernley resident Ebony Sinner, who lives in a mobile home park behind the Best Western Fernley Inn, was notified by a maintenance worker that her home was being evacuated early in the afternoon.

Sinner carried a 3-week-old kitten and was followed by a dog, her stepsister, a toddler and an infant in a stroller as they walked south in a field through brush and over the railroad tracks to Out of Town Park.

"We don't know where to go," Sinner said.

An emergency shelter was set up by the American Red Cross at Fernley High School.

By 3 p.m., the fire was nearly extinguished, said Capt. Jeff Page of the Lyon County Sheriff's Department. Residents on the southern edge of the evacuation area were allowed to return to their homes.

In total, more than 100 people were evacuated to the shelter and roughly 500 gathered at Out of Town Park, Page said.

I-80 was closed for nearly four hours before the threat of an explosion subsided, according to Associated Press reports. Some westbound vehicles exited on Highway 95, 30 miles north of Fallon, and followed a detour south to Fallon and west on U.S. Highway 50A to Fernley. Arterial routes in Fallon and Fernley were clogged with traffic in the early afternoon, much of it semi-trucks.

Emergency response services from cities including Fallon, Wadsworth, Sparks, Reno and Silver Springs responded to the incident, setting up a command post at the North Lyon County Fire Protection District on Main Street.

Eleven firefighters, a fire truck, a tender and two command vehicles were sent by the Fallon/Churchill Volunteer Fire Department to Fernley, Chief Mike Parrish said. The extra personnel and vehicles would be essential in the event of an explosion, which would likely have spawned structure and brush fires.

n Appeal news service reporter Burke Wasson and The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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