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Truck hauling hazardous chemicals catches fire; homes near Paynesville evacuated

Homes near Paynesville were evacuated early Friday morning after a semi-trailer carrying hazardous materials caught fire.

The westbound lane of state Highway 23 was still blocked Friday, Aug. 18.

A press release from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office said law enforcement received a call at 12:16 a.m. of a semi-trailer on fire.

The driver, who had unhooked the tractor from the trailer and moved the tractor to safety, reported that the trailer was carrying various chemicals classified as oxidizers.  

Paynesville Police Department responded and found the trailer fully engulfed and spewing toxic smoke.

The Stearns County Sheriff's Office responded and assisted with shutting down the highway and diverting traffic.

Authorities estabishled a half-mile exclusion zone around the trailer. The Stearns County dispatch center notified those affected by phone and Stearns County deputies went door-to-door evacuating individuals between Stearns County Road 85 and Highway 23 from Koronis Hills Golf course to Roseville Road.

Those displaced from their homes were sheltered at the Paynesville High School for several hours until allowed back into their homes.

The State Patrol was investigating the cause of the incident and were assisted by the Paynesville Fire Department and St. Cloud Fire Department hazardous materials team.

Part of the highway is still blocked.

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