Oregon Petroleum Fire At Columbia River: Union Pacific Train Derails And Spills Oil

A petroleum fire broke loose at Columbia River in Oregon when a train carrying volatile petroleum came off the tracks Friday.

The derailment ignited a massive petroleum fire which covered the Columbia River area in toxic black smoke. The petroleum fire outbreak resulted in evacuations and road closures.

Philly reports on the 11-petroleum-car derailment of a 96-car Union Pacific train which caught on fire near Columbia River. It took only one car to catch fire for the petroleum oil to spread alongside tracks next to the region’s scenic Columbia River, according to railroad spokesperson Aaron Hunt.

Every car was carrying petroleum Bakken oil on the Columbia River trail in Oregon. This type of petroleum oil is highly flammable due to its higher gas content and vapor pressure.

The petroleum oil fire on the Columbia River immediately spurred negative attention from Oregon environmentalists who said that petroleum oil should never be transported by rail car.

Attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity in Eugene, Oregon, Jared Margolis stated, “Moving oil by rail constantly puts our communities and environment at risk.”

Investigators are still trying to determine if any of the petroleum oil slipped into the Columbia River, which would be very harmful to the environment. In addition, they are also trying to figure out what caused the derailment which led to the petroleum fire in the first place.

Witnesses of the train passing by and the petroleum fire that it started noted that the train was passing by slowly next to the Columbia river, before the fire ignited.

According to a spokesperson with the U.S. Forest Service, Katherine Santini, drones were used by response teams to assess the damage done by the petroleum fire along the Columbia River.

In the Oregon town of Mosier, approximately 23 miles of Interstate 84 were closed. An additional half-mile radius around the petroleum fire was also evacuated.

Nearly 200 school children were picked up by their parents as a result of the petroleum fire. No injuries were reported as a result of the violent petroleum fire at Columbia River.

Silas Bleakley was working at his restaurant in Mosier when the train derailed.

“You could feel it through the ground. It was more of a feeling than a noise,” Silas Bleakley, local restaurant owner, told the Associated Press.

Bleakley said after going outside, he saw the smoke and got in his truck to drive nearly 2,000 feet to a bridge that crosses the railroad tracks at Columbia River.

“All of a sudden, I heard ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ like dominoes,” Brian Shurton, another witness of the Columbia River petroleum fire, told AP when he saw the train passing by.


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Hunt, the Union Pacific spokesman, did not respond to questions regarding whether the petroleum oil cars were retrofitted under new regulations which could have potentially prevented the derailment and subsequent petroleum fire.

Investigators of the Columbia River fire also speculate that the petroleum oil cars were simply outdated as are many rail cars currently used for transportation.

According to Union Pacific’s senior vice president, Scott Moore, UP is dedicated to “operating a safe, efficient and environmentally responsible rail network.”

Investigators are still trying to figure out how the petroleum cars derailed, causing the fire. How do you think it happened?

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