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Route 5 reopened after 3,500 gallons of propane burned off

For those who use Route 5, it's been quite a few months.

On Wednesday, the road was closed for much of the day while crews dealt with the aftermath of a rolled propane tanker.

And, just last month, the busy Southtowns commuting lane was affected by the extensive fire in the area of the former Bethlehem Steel plant.

A two-mile stretch of Route 5 in Lackawanna reopened around 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to Lackawanna Fire Chief Ralph Galanti.

Firefighters and hazmat crews had been called to the scene after a crash between a pickup and the tanker, from Irish Propane Corp., at about 6:30 a.m., near the intersection of Route 5 and Dona Street. The propane truck was removed from the scene shortly before the road was reopened.

Galanti told The Buffalo News late Wednesday afternoon that "a very small leak" of propane ran onto Route 5 after the truck and the vehicle crashed.

But, to get to a damaged check valve on the truck – which was letting propane leak onto the road – crews had to get rid of propane in the rolled-over truck until the damaged valve could be reached and replaced with a plug. Burning off of the propane went on until about 3 p.m., Galanti said.

The propane truck was then righted,  Galanti said. The propone truck was lifted onto a towing rig and taken from the site about 4:20 p.m. The other vehicle involved in the crash was also taken from the site.

Route 5 between Ridge Road and Milestrip Road was re-salted, and then Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski said the road could be reopened.

A spokeswoman for the state DEC told The Buffalo News that the situation was due to a tanker's "collision with another motor vehicle, and there has been no release of diesel or other petroleum products at this time."

"Due to damage to tanker truck valves, local fire personnel have determined that the propane in the truck must be burned off before the truck can be righted," the spokeswoman said, during the afternoon.

The incident was being monitored by officials, she said.

"So far, there been no impacts to local air quality observed," the DEC spokeswoman said.

Earlier in the day, afternoon rush-hour traffic was bumper to bumper on South Park Avenue and slow on Ridge Road.

Galanti said the tanker contained 3,500 gallons of propane.

Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. said the tanker was close to full when the crash happened.

"We were unable to stop the leak, unable to patch it ... and so the next course of action was to try to burn it off," Whitfield said.

Throughout the day, flames shooting from a 10-foot pole signaled the controlled burn.

“We have to burn as much of the 3,500 gallons in the propane tanker as possible," Szymanski said, earlier in the day. "Then we have to clear the street of accident debris, which is all over the place. Then we will be salting the street because the water we’ve added to the tank is turning to ice."

"As you can see from the flames down there, propane is highly volatile, very explosive," Whitfield said, earlier in the day. "We're very concerned about it leaking and being ignited. That's the danger here. It's very, very volatile."

In addition to Buffalo and Lackawanna firefighters and the DEC, officials from several agencies, including the State Police and state and county fire officials responded.

Two people in the tanker and the driver of the pickup were taken for treatment to area hospitals. The driver and a passenger in the propane truck were taken to a hospital where they were treated and released, said Laurie Irish-Jones, CEO of Irish Propane Corp. Both are fine, she said.

Irish-Jones said company officials were talking to public safety officials about how the crash happened and did not have anything yet to say about it publicly Wednesday.

She said bystanders rushed to the crash immediately after it happened.

"People are very helpful," she said. "People ran over right away. We've got quite the city."

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