Preparedness & Recovery

Derailment Response Focused on Safety as Fire Continues to Burn

A propane-fueled fire from the derailed cars continued to burn Thursday at daybreak. Two of the cars carried liquefied petroleum gas and molten sulphur.

by Jeffrey Alderton, Cumberland Times News, Md. / August 3, 2017
In this aerial image made from a video provided by WPXI, a fire burns after dozens of cars of a freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in Hyndman, Pa., Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. County officials ordered all residents of the small Pennsylvania town to evacuate after the derailment. AP

(TNS) - An extensive emergency response continues for Wednesday’s 32-car CSX train derailment that left at least two buildings destroyed in this Bedford County, Pa., community.

A propane-fueled fire from the derailed cars continued to burn Thursday at daybreak. Two of the cars carried liquefied petroleum gas and molten sulphur.

No injuries or fatalities were reported in the 5 a.m. disaster that led to the evacuation of about half of the northern side of this 900-resident community, located in Londonderry Township.

Rob Doolittle, CSX spokesman, said the emergency responders are working 12-hour shifts.

“We will continue to work as quickly as we can to ensure the safety of the community and to get residents back to their houses as quickly as we can,” Doolittle said in a 7 a.m. press conference at the Tri-State Ministry Center near Hyndman that is serving as an evacuation center and the CSX Transportation command post.

Initially, an evacuation center was established at the Hope for Hyndman Charter School on School Street in Hyndman until officials expanded the evacuation area. The site was then moved to the ministry center, located about seven miles south of Hyndman.

A second evacuation site, or outreach center, was established at the Bedford United Methodist Church on East John Street in Bedford.

CSX officials continue to urge anyone with questions about the incident or needing help to access the CSX Incident Response Line at 1-800-331-4031.

Rick Flinn, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said “it’s a blessing” that no one was injured or killed in the disaster that occurred in the area of Hogback Road and at the northern side of the residential section of the town of Hyndman."

Flinn commended the quick response of volunteer firefighters and CSX personnel who were first at the scene. He also said there are several hundred contractors on site ready to restore the site as quickly as possible.

He said Pennsylvania State Police has provided traffic control throughout the incident and that the agency is also transporting CSX personnel to and from the Hyndman area in addition to “doing video” of the derailment area.

In response to a question from a reporter, Flinn said the longer the fire burned the less likely the chance of an explosion. He stressed safety of the community was the foremost issue followed by efforts to get residents back in their homes.

Flinn also said Gov. Tom Wolf, who held a press conference Wednesday at the Tri-State Ministry Center, is continuing to monitor the emergency response.

“The commonwealth is fully engaged,” said Flinn, who said CSX personnel went into evacuated homes overnight to gather medicine and take care of pets who were left stranded without food and water by the abrupt evacuation order.

Doolittle, who said no timeline has been established for when residents could return home, said the next press briefing would be held at 2:30 p.m. unless circumstances would dictate otherwise.

The incident has drawn the response of numerous agencies and is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Jeff Alderton is a veteran Cumberland Times-News police reporter. To reach him, call/text 304-639-6888, email jlalderton@times-news.com and follow him on Twitter.

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©2017 the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.)

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