Train catches fire after derailment in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY - August 22, 2008 - Eight cars on the 110-car Burlington Northern Santa Fe train derailed, seven of which were carrying either crude oil or ethanol, company spokesman Joe Faust said. He said he didn't know how many of the derailed cars had caught on fire.

He said only two people - an engineer and a conductor - were aboard the train, and neither was injured.

The derailment occurred around 3 p.m., about 30 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, close to the town of Luther. The train was traveling less than 40 mph from Tulsa to Temple, Texas, on tracks owned by Stillwater Central Railroad. A call to the railroad's office went unanswered Friday afternoon.

Television footage showed intense flames and heavy black smoke in the rural area. Firefighters initially were apparently unable to get near the fire because of the heat. The railroad tracks near the site of the fire appeared to be bent, and an oil pump jack was located nearby.

Explosions at the site sent large balls of fire into the air, and the blaze continued into the afternoon. Edmond Fire Department spokesman Tim Wheeler said firefighters from five different towns initially responded, although some later were sent home as the blaze subsided somewhat.

Wheeler said crews from BNSF will assess the situation and work with local firefighters on a plan of action. Crews from BNSF and investigators from the Federal Railroad Administration were en route to the scene Friday, said Faust and Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Steve Kulm.

Oklahoma County Sheriff's Department spokesman Mark Myers said authorities were blocking off a one-mile-radius area around the fire. Authorities also evacuated downwind areas three miles from the fire as a precautionary measure.

The National Transportation Safety Board hasn't decided if it will begin an investigation into the incident, spokesman Keith Holloway said.

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