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Highway 1 near coast open to one-way traffic after tanker crash, fuel spill

Highway 1 near the coastal community of Timber Cove was closed for about 16 hours starting late Tuesday after a tanker truck overturned and spilled about 1,500 gallons of fuel, launching a cleanup that authorities said could take until Friday before the roadway completely reopens.

Caltrans on Wednesday afternoon reopened a single lane of the two-lane highway, and officials said they expect the second lane should be open by 2 p.m. Friday - giving the trucking company time to clean the spill and Caltrans time to repave the damaged roadway, said Bob Haus, Caltrans spokesman.

The closure started about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday when the tanker rolled near the entrance of Salt Point State Park and landed on its side, blocking the highway, according to the CHP.

The northbound Henner Tank Lines truck was carrying ?8,500 gallons of diesel and gasoline. As it tipped, a tank ruptured, and about 1,500 gallons of fuel escaped, spilling onto the road but not into any waterways, said Zachary Hamill, emergency coordinator for the Sonoma County Fire and Emergency Services Department.

It was an all-night call for more than a dozen firefighters, including Timber Cove volunteers, Cal Fire and South Coast fire agencies, who were joined at the remote coastal locale well before dawn by county and Santa Rosa fire hazardous materials crews, Caltrans, CHP, and other public agency and tanker company representatives.

Firefighters blocked Highway 1 at Stewarts Point and Timber Cove roads to keep traffic away from the spill. The available detour was a backroad journey that took drivers along sometimes steep and curving, narrow roads that substantially added to trip times.

The tanker company sent out an empty vehicle for a fuel transfer and is paying for the cleanup, Haus said.

The job to get the huge vehicle emptied and removed took several steps, including disconnecting batteries and grounding the vehicle.

Before safety-suited workers could “hot tap” the fuel tank by drilling into it and begin the long process of pumping out 7,000 gallons of fuel, firefighters coated the area with thick, white fire-?retardant foam and charged hoses with water, in case of a spark, Timber Cove Fire Chief Erich Lynn said.

“It’s a very slow and methodical mitigation,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marshal Turbeville, who also worked the call.

The fuel transfer was done by about 9:30 a.m. The tractor and tanker then had to be righted by two large tow trucks, and the cleanup started. By about 2:30 p.m., Caltrans announced one lane had been opened.

The tanker driver, Thomas Koski, 38, of Winters wasn’t injured, according to the CHP, which is investigating the crash. The driver told investigators he had been headed toward Gualala.

Caltrans has set out portable message signs in Jenner and Gualala to alert drivers to the one-lane issue at the park entrance.

For 24/7 traffic updates, go to 511.org, or twitter.com/511SFBay, and for real-time information on all state highways in California on the Caltrans Quick Maps, go to quickmap.dot.ca.gov.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707-521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. ?On Twitter@rossmannreport.

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