Officials say chemical spill that caused fire near East Ridge will take days to clean

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office / Chattanooga-area fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies managed a chemical fire at 482 McBrien Road just off Interstate 24. Due to the fire, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for the residents within a half mile radius of the fires location.

The cleanup from a chemical spill that caused a fire and evacuations Thursday night in Chattanooga will likely last several days, officials said Friday.

A truck hauling chemicals caught fire late Thursday in a shopping center parking lot near East Ridge, causing residents nearby to be evacuated.

The incident closed Interstate 24 for several hours overnight before the scene was declared safe just before 5 a.m. Friday, a news release from the Chattanooga Fire Department said.

(READ MORE: UPDATE: I-24 reopened, residents allowed to return home after chemical fire near East Ridge)

Part of South Terrace between McBrien and Spring Creek roads, and the shopping center containing the AMC Chattanooga 18 theater near East Ridge, will stay closed while crews clean up the spill, Lindsey Rogers, spokesperson for the Fire Department, said in an email.

The truck was carrying organic peroxide and sodium hydroxide, which can emit harmful vapors that can irritate skin and breathing when burned, according to the department.

It appears the fire started when the chemicals leaked inside the truck, causing a reaction, the department said. Organic peroxide lets off heat when exposed to air, which can ignite a fire.

The truck had just left carrier Averitt Express' Chattanooga service center and was heading to the company's service center in Birmingham, Alabama, Brad Brown, a spokesperson for Averitt Express, said in an email Friday.

(READ MORE: Hometown heavyweights: These trucking and logistics companies have Chattanooga roots)

Local company Hepaco is leading cleanup efforts, the Fire Department said. Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation also assisted.

The spill did not affect water systems in the area, Rogers said.

A containment berm has been set up to contain runoff water from the fire response and cleanup, Kim Schofinski, a spokesperson for the state conservation agency, said in an email. The EPA is conducting water quality monitoring at the site, Schofinski said.

There were no injuries, and it's unclear how many people evacuated their homes, according to the Fire Department.

Thursday's was the second chemical incident in two days in Chattanooga that required hazmat teams to respond.

  photo  Chattanooga Fire Department / A tractor trailer hauling organic peroxide and sodium hydroxide caught fire Thursday on McBrien Road, sparking a major hazmat response.

On Wednesday, a truck carrying organic peroxide reported a leak on Highway 153 near Lee Highway. Hazmat responders and firefighters isolated the spill area, and part of the highway was closed for around four hours, according to a news release from the Chattanooga Fire Department.

(READ MORE: Phase 2 of I-75/I-24 split project gets underway with bridge closures in Hamilton County)

"Both were accidents," Rogers said in an email Friday. "A coincidence that we had two incidents involving similar chemicals within the span of two days, however, we have multiple hazardous materials transported through our city by all modes of transportation."

Local agencies regularly train for spills like these, Rogers said. Chattanooga firefighters and county emergency responders are in the process of completing a hazmat accreditation with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, she said, and completed a hands-on evaluation earlier in the day Thursday.

Situations like this are still extremely rare, Brown, the carrier spokesperson, said.

"In situations like this, we have trained our drivers first to immediately notify local emergency responders," Brown said. "Next, once local responders have been notified, our drivers call an internal hotline that is staffed 24/7/365 to alert our safety response team at our corporate office, which begins communicating at multiple levels within our organization to coordinate our response, including dispatching local leadership to the scene."

Contact Ellen Gerst at or 423-757-6319.

  photo  A mandatory evacuation was ordered for residents within a half mile radius of the chemical fire’s location and Interstate 24 was closed in both directions from the I-24/I-75 split to the North Germantown exit. / Screenshot provided by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office