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Train catches fire downtown

Tue., Sept. 27, 2011

Locomotive leaves trail of acrid smoke, 911 calls

A locomotive pulling freight cars through downtown Spokane caught fire Monday morning, shooting flames and leaving a thick trail of acrid smoke surrounding the elevated viaduct.

A BNSF spokesman said one of three locomotives pulling the train caught fire about 10 a.m. The locomotives were towing 62 loads of general freight, including tankers hauling nonhazardous material, and 37 empty cars.

The crew noticed sparks from the second locomotive at 10 a.m. and stopped to inspect, causing a 15-minute delay, BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said. The train then continued to Pasco, where further inspection was scheduled.

Melonas said there was no damage or environmental danger.

A Spokane Fire Department spokesman said the train was gone by the time fire crews responded at 10:09 a.m. to 911 calls about the incident.

Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the locomotive came to a stop near Sunset Junction at Inland Empire Way and Sunset Boulevard, where the train crew put out the fire in the diesel engine injectors with portable extinguishers.

“After the situation was determined to be safe, the train continued on its route,” Schaeffer said, adding that the incident was under investigation.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud boom and seeing high flames from a locomotive.

Craig Simonson, who works at Litho Art Printers, 118 S Lincoln St., was standing outside when the train passed. He said the second locomotive was shooting huge flames, perhaps 20 feet high, and creating smoke so thick it obscured automobiles in a nearby parking lot.

“You could feel the heat wave,” Simonson said.

About 40 BNSF trains per day pass through downtown Spokane on the viaduct.

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