Fire crews work to put out flames from derailed train near U.S. 287

Published: Jan. 8, 2022 at 9:20 PM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Multiple fire crews have spent the day battling blazes that erupted from a derailed train that went off the tracks at 10 a.m. near Highway U.S. 287 and F.M.483 in Oklaunion.

The Wichita Falls and Vernon Fire Departments as well as Sheppard Air Force Base were quick to respond to the scene where a Burlington Northern Sante Fe train derailed this morning. BNSF officials said the train had 98 cars that were carrying denatured alcohol, which is also known as ethanol. There were 28 cars that derailed, and out of those, 25 caught on fire during the accident.

The train was headed east on its way to Fort Worth.

The Texas Department of Public Safety closed parts of Highway U.S. 287 and the overpass crossing F.M. 483 where some of those 98 cars sat and could have caused a possible explosion.

“Ethanol is something is a component people use to fuel their vehicles, so it’s burning and it’s not something that hazardous. Thankfully if something like that were to happen, it usually happens at the very beginning of this type of incident. That did not occur,” said Amy Casas, senior director of media relations of Burlington Northern Sante Fe.

While there were no injuries, firefighters were concerned that the fiery train cars would cause grass fires.

“I think there was one old structure out in a pasture, and just basically fighting brush and grass fires, surrounding fires due to the high winds,” Sheriff Brian Fritze of the Wilbarger County Sheriff’s Office said. “We’re very blessed to have the great community that we do, because we’re a very small department and a lot of times when matters like this happen -- we’re not used to having train derailments.”

BNSF officials said foam trucks have been called in from across Texas to help extinguish remaining fires, but clean-up will take several hours or even days. Investigators are still working to find out what caused the train to derail.

“Our first priority is to get the fire under control, then once we’re able to do that then we would safely look at removing the rail cars that were impacted in the incident. Then remediate the scene so it looks like a derailment never happened here and repair the tracks,” said Casas.

United Supermarket staff in Vernon pitched in to supply first responders working the scene with water and ice. Dinner was provided by the Western Trails Cowboy Church.

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