Amtrak train catches fire, station evacuated

April 26, 2011 8:56:33 PM PDT
Action News has exclusive details on a train fire that sparked delays and stranded passengers in Wilmington.

It was about 6:15 p.m. that the Amtrak train was headed from Miami to New York when the fire broke out in the train's engine 911, but passengers didn't know that.

"We were on the train coming into the station and all of a sudden all the power went off," passenger Vanessa Maldonado of New York City said.

"The train just stopped completely and we didn't know what was going on and then they made the announcement saying that there was an engine problem," passenger Melissa Chery of Bensalem, Pa. said.

Shortly thereafter, another announcement let passengers know things were a lot more serious than they thought.

"They said, 'please, have everyone get off the train,' so we all got off and we were stuck in the platform and then out of nowhere the alarm went off and we didn't know what was going on," Chery said.

Soon, smoke started spreading everywhere. In fact, the fire in the train's engine room spewed so much smoke, the Wilmington train station had to be evacuated.

"I was scared that it was going to blow up," passenger Clayborn Armstron of Brooklyn, New York said.

Worried that the fire would damage the train station, railroad workers towed the train to Amtrak's west yard which is just south of Wilmington, but that would cause another problem. Firefighters had to shuttle in water because there are no fire hydrants at the location.

Then they were having a difficult time putting out the fire because of the narrow passage way to the engine. It wasn't designed for firefighters wearing bulky clothing and all that gear.

It was not until two and a half hours later that they were finally able to put it out.

Meanwhile, the scene was chaotic outside the train station as travel weary passengers carrying all their luggage wondered when they would be able to get back to New York.

There were 180 passengers onboard the New York bound train.

Late Tuesday night, Action News received word that all, but a few of the passengers have been put on other trains and taken to their scheduled destinations.

One person was treated and released for smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.