HWY 41 near Yosemite opened following sulfur spill, fires

Monday, April 23, 2012
Chemical spill sparks fires, closes Hwy 41 near Yosemite

Wearing full body protection and gas masks, Caltrans cleanup crews worked all day to erase the hazardous spill blocking traffic on Highway 41, just outside of the entrance to Yosemite National Park. The job is grueling manual labor, scooping dirt onto a sulfur spill covering almost a mile-long stretch of highway.

UPDATE: HWY 41 into Yosemite is now open

Two tow trucks hauled away the big rig along with its remaining sulfar load outside Yosemite National Park Monday night. The road was opened at around 11:30 p.m. Monday night.

A "Road Closed" sign thwarted tourists trying to take 41 to enjoy a day of free entrance at the park. Depite signs along the highway as far back as Madera, many tourists drove right past the detour at Oakhurst.

"We did see a sign a few miles back saying that the road was closed," Grace Holder said. "We chose to ignore it and hope for the best.

Crews kept the spill out of a nearby creek and doused a few small fires caused by the sulfur igniting in brush along the road.

The driver crashed into a guardrail and leaked the toxic chemical until he stopped just shy of the park gates.

Investigators are questioning the man to see why he was carrying a commercial load of sulfur -- typically used for agriculture -- into a national park, where commercial trucks are banned. Action News has learned he was supposed to drop the sulfur off in Fresno, but told officials he got lost. And, they say, there's another reason he shouldn't have been on the road.

"They say he was under the influence of something," CHP Officer Corbett said. "We're not sure exactly what at this time."

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