Train derails, causing fire and partial bridge collapse in Arizona

Train derails, causing fire and partial bridge collapse in Arizona
Train derails, causing fire and partial bridge collapse in Arizona
Posted at 3:14 PM, Jul 29, 2020

A Union Pacific train hauling lumber and other chemicals derailed and caught fire early Wednesday morning while crossing a bridge over Tempe Town Lake, which caused a portion of the bridge to collapse.

More than 90 firefighters from the Tempe Fire Department and other nearby agencies responded to the southern portion of Tempe Town Lake where they found several train cars on fire. Flames could be seen running the length of the bridge, sending dark clouds of smoke billowing into the air near Tempe Beach Park.

Several firetrucks were seen spraying water on the flames for several hours Wednesday morning, while a fireboat was helping to spray water onto the flames and remnants of the fire from the lake.

Tim McMahan, a spokesperson for Union Pacific Railroad, said in an email that eight to 10 train cars were reported to be on fire. He said none of the train's crew were injured, but said one person was treated for smoke inhalation.

When the south side of the bridge collapsed, three tank cars fell below it. Two of those cars were hauling cyclohexane and the other was hauling a rubber material, McMahan said in an email. Cyclohexane is a class ii combustible liquid that smells like acetone or peppermint, according to the CDC's website.

McMahan said none of the three tanks were involved in the fire and were not believed to be leaking any material.

As a result of the investigation, several roadways near Tempe Town Lake, including portions of the Loop 202 Freeway, have remained closed throughout much of the day. Tempe Beach Park is also closed. All classes and boating activities were quickly canceled, the City of Tempe said in a news release.

Valley Metro has also terminated its eastbound service at 38th Street and Washington and westbound at Smith-Martin and Apache. It used buses to re-route passengers between those two stops, operators said in a tweet.

The light rail does not use the bridge that collapsed. The track where the bridge collapsed is mostly used for cargo trains, McMahan said.

The cause of the derailment remains under investigation, officials said.

Investigators with the Federal Railroad Administration have been sent to the derailment site to "start a preliminary investigation," a statement said. "Further updates will be provided at a later time," the FRA released in a statement.

People should expect investigators and emergency officials to be in the area for a while.

This article was written by Ashley Loose for KNXV.