Overturned Truck Spills Over 5,000 Pounds of Ammonium Nitrate, Closes California Highway

An overturned truck in California spilled over 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, prompting officials to shut down State Route 198.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the Fresno County Fire Protection Unit wrote, "#ParsonsIncident Firefighters are at scene of a hazardous materials spill Hwy 198 x Parsons Road. One semi- overturned off the roadway, carrying 5,500 lbs of ammonium nitrate."

The tweet continued, "Hwy 198 closed in both directions."

KFSN-TV in Fresno, California reported the incident occurred around 9:15 a.m. local time this morning.

A public information officer for Fresno County Fire Protection Unit informed Newsweek that California Highway Patrol officials have requested a hazmat unit to come and assist with the chemical spill, but noted that they expect a two-hour wait.

It is currently unclear how the truck overturned and spilled the chemicals, according to the public information officer.

While officials wait for the hazmat team to arrive, it is currently unknown how long the highway will stay closed.

Newsweek reached out to the California Highway Patrol in Fresno for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

According to the National Institute of Health library of medicine, ammonium nitrate is a chemical usually found in fertilizers but it can also be used as an explosive.

This is not the first time a truck carrying ammonium nitrate has been involved in an accident.

In 2019, a truck carrying 6,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate overturned in Dawson County, Georgia. While speaking with WXIA-TV in 2019, Dawson County Fire and EMA Director Danny Thompson said that the since no other chemicals were interacting with the ammonium nitrate, officials did not believe it would ignite or explode.

"I know there's been a lot of talk on social media that it's dynamite. This product's actually used in lieu of dynamite, and has been for about the last 15-20 years, because it's very safe in transportation and just it's general usage," Thompson told WXIA-TV in 2019.

In July 2020, Wisconsin's Highway 53, near the city of Eau Claire, was shut down for nearly eight hours after a truck carrying over 20,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and 300 gallons of diesel overturned. According to WQOW news in Eau Claire, the chemical spill prompted local officials to order residents near the crash to evacuate their homes.

"When these materials are mixed together, they can be ignited and have some explosive properties to them and that is why we took all the steps that we could to minimize and mitigate the incident," Allyn Bertrang, deputy chief of the Eau Claire Fire Department, said in 2020, according to WQOW news.

California Traffic
An overturned truck in California spilled over 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, prompting officials to shutdown State Route 198. Above, heavy traffic is seen at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on May 27 in Los Angeles. Frederic J. Brown/Getty