Train Derailment Fire Extinguished, Investigation Underway

Train Derailment Fire Extinguished, Investigation Underway

An explosion occurred during Saturday's fire just outside of Rock Springs. Photo courtesy of Jen Wiberg.

ROCK SPRINGS — Yesterday’s explosive fire four miles outside of Rock Springs has been extinguished according to Sweetwater County Fire Department No. 1 Fire Chief, Scott Kitchner.

At around 2:54 pm on Saturday, 26 train cars had derailed near Baxter road. Of those 26 train cars, 10 were either destroyed or caught fire. The 10 train cars were carrying ethanol and alcohol along with a plastic material, causing an explosive situation, with 100-foot flames.

Local crews made up of 60 individuals worked around the clock to extinguish the fire around 3:30 am Sunday morning. The Union Pacific’s [UP] hazmat teams from Denver and Salt Lake City were also on the scene late last night.

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“[UP’s] resources remain on the scene as well as local resources to monitor the work that the railroad has ongoing and to monitor the wild land,” Kitchner said.

In total, 20 to 25 acres of Bureau of Land Management land burned.

Kitchner also said that two deputies received second-degree burns from the large explosion that happened early in the incident, however, both deputies received medical attention at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County and have been released from medical care.

Investigations are underway from the Union Pacific, the Wyoming Department of Transportation, and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). According to UP’s Senior Director of Digital and Social Media Tim McMahan, the FRA will have the final say on what caused the accident, which could take up to a year to confirm.

UP’s crews have moved the debris and damaged train cars from the tracks. In the near future, the debris will be hauled away.

Engineering teams are now working to repair the tracks. One of the main lines has already reopened and the second main line will reopen some time Monday, according to McMahan.

Sweetwater County Fire District No. 1, Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Sweetwater Medics Ambulance, Wyoming Department of Transportation, Sweetwater County Road and Bridge, Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport Fire Department, Airport Director Devon Brubaker, Sweetwater County Fire Department, Rock Springs Fire Department, and the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security Region No. 4 Response Team were all involved in helping get the situation under control.

Kitchner would also like to recognize the Bureau of Land Management and the citizens of the community who dropped off food and water to responders.

“This was a team effort and we truly appreciate all of your efforts,” Kitchner said.