GALENA, Illinois, March 5, 2015 (ENS) – No injuries to people have been reported, but the environment in Illinois’ northwest corner was injured today after a BNSF Railway oil train from North Dakota derailed at about 1:20 pm local time in a rural area south of Galena in Illinois’ northwest corner.
BNSF says the train consists of 105 loaded cars – 103 cars were loaded with crude oil and two buffer cars were loaded with sand.
At least eight tank cars carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire. The area temperature hovered close to zero as fireballs billowed into the air and a thick, black cloud of smoke rose from the scene of the derailment.
Firefighters could not get near enough to the searing blaze to control it. Lacking alternatives, officials have decided to let the fire burn itself out.
Jo Daviess County officials announced a voluntary evacuation of an area within one mile of the incident, which occurred in a sparsely inhabited stretch of hilly country near Galena, a town of about 3,400 people.
The incident follows two fiery oil train derailments on February 16 – one in Ontario and the other in West Virginia.
Today’s derailment happened not far from the Mississippi River as it divides Illinois from Iowa.
In a statement, BNSF said the company is “taking precautionary measures to protect the waterways in the area and will conduct air quality monitoring.”
“At this time, we do not know the cause of the derailment,” said the company. Joining the railroad employees on the train, additional BNSF responders arrived soon after the event occurred.
BNSF is working with local responders and has notified the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board of the incident.
The Federal Railroad Administration is sending a team to the site to try and determine the cause of this third oil train derailment and fire in North America in three weeks.
“The Federal Railroad Administration is aware of the crude oil train derailment this afternoon near Galena, Illinois, the agency said in a statement.
“The derailed train is on fire. We have a team of investigators en route to the scene,” the FRA said. “Once the scene is contained and secured, we will be conducting a thorough investigation to determine the probable cause of the derailment.”
BNSF says the company “promptly notified” various local and state officials from Illinois and Iowa.
“We are grateful for the efforts of the first responders at this incident and sincerely regret the inconvenience this event has caused to the community,” the company said.
BNSF will establish a claims center at the site of the incident to help and assist local residents who may have suffered damage to their property or need temporary relocation.
“The only thing more mind-boggling than three such accidents in three weeks is the continued lack of action by the Obama administration to protect us from these dangerous oil trains,” said Mollie Matteson, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The government has the authority to take immediate action to address this crisis – which puts homes, waters and wildlife at risk – and yet it has sat back and watched.”
The Center for Biological Diversity recently released a report on the danger of oil trains traveling tracks throughout the United States. It found that some 25 million people live within the one-mile evacuation zone of tracks carrying oil trains, and that the trains pass through 34 wildlife refuges and critical habitat for 57 endangered species.
BNSF Railway operates on 32,500 route miles of track in 28 states and in three Canadian provinces. The company transports consumer goods, grain and agricultural products, low-sulfur coal, petroleum, chemicals, housing materials, food and beverages.