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The original item was published from 2/16/2021 4:32:00 PM to 3/1/2021 12:00:03 AM.

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Normal Fire Department News

Posted on: February 14, 2021

[ARCHIVED] Derailed Train Cleanup Leads to Fire in Damaged Cargo; Non-Toxic Runoff

Train Fire Upon Arrival - NFD Media Picture

NORMAL  –   Cleanup efforts from the derailed train incident on the Union Pacific Railroad tracks yesterday sparked a fire which consumed at least two semi trailers full of cargo and lead to concerns about runoff into Sugar Creek, but thankfully the chemical was sampled and identified as non-toxic water-soluble paint and was not hazardous to life or the environment.  

Normal Fire Department responded to the dead end of Hester Avenue at 9:48 AM this morning to the report of a fire in the spilled cargo from the earlier derailment.  Upon arrival, firefighters had heavy fire and smoke coming from the spilled contents of at least two semi trailers that were dislodged from the flatbed train cars from which they were being transported prior to the derailment yesterday.   Additional resources were added to the call due to the extreme cold and the accessibility of the scene.    Fire crews worked to bring the main portion of the fire under control as quickly as possible due to its proximity to the apartment building at 609 Hester.    Radiant heat from the fire damaged some of the vinyl siding on the building.   There were also safety concerns due to the close overhead proximity of the already damaged power poles and power lines from the derailment.     


Water used during firefighting efforts mixed with a material identified as non-toxic water-soluble paint that was present in the spilled cargo from the derailed train.   The paint mixed with the water and entered the storm drains which lead to Sugar Creek.   Attempts were made to put a floating boom across the creek to stop the flow downstream, but since the creek was frozen, the pigments flowed under the ice.  
A coordinated effort between Union Pacific Railroad, Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Normal Fire Department officials resulted in all appropriate measures being taken to quickly identify the substance and ensure that it was non-hazardous. The Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District sampled and tested the water in Sugar Creek and confirmed that there are no hazards to life.  The Environmental Protection Agency is working with officials and relayed no concerns for any environmental impacts.

Citizens will likely notice that the water, ice, and snow surrounding Sugar Creek looks discolored or has a reddish/orange coloring to it.  The discoloration will dissipate, and there is no risk to life or the water supply.  The ice and snow surrounding the creek may remain discolored until it has a chance to thaw.

After the main body of fire was knocked down, firefighters were assisted by a Union Pacific Railroad excavator to spread out the pile of burning debris and allow us to soak it with water to ensure that it was fully extinguished.   Due to the extreme cold conditions, firefighters battled not only the fire, but freezing temperatures and risks of hypothermia.  Crews were rotated in and out frequently to allow firefighters the chance to warm up and their gear to thaw.  Off-duty crews were called back to work to help provide additional manpower at the scene and to run emergency calls elsewhere in Town.   And again, we are grateful to the City of Bloomington Fire Department for their assistance in helping us staff stations and respond to calls while our personnel were tasked with the railroad fire today.

Firefighters cleared the scene and turned control back over to Union Pacific Railroad at 2:10 PM.   There were no injuries to firefighters or workers during the incident.   

The exact origin of the fire is under investigation, but was related to the railroad cleanup efforts and is not considered to be malicious.      

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