The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most breathtaking natural areas in the Pacific Northwest. But railways line the river and with railways comes the danger of derailment. That fear became a reality along the Columbia on Friday when eleven cars filled with crude oil derailed and exploded in the small Oregon town of Mosier.
The train was moving oil from Idaho to Tacoma, WA when it jumped the tracks at about 12:20pm, Pacific time. Near the inferno are a school, a sewage plant and a creek which feeds into the Columbia River (though a Washington DoE spokeswoman said that no oil has been spotted in the river). Oh, and the main E-W artery along the river, Interstate 84, has been closed for a 27-mile stretch, backing traffic for miles. An Oregon Dept. of Transportation official noted that I-84 will be closed through the night.
Meanwhile, a nearby school had to be evacuated and a mobile home park is close enough to the inferno to be on alert to evacuate. The major concern, though, is the town’s sewage treatment plant, which lies just 20 feet from the burning cars. Residents have been told not to use bathrooms and other lines that feed into the sewage system. That might not be a problem if the entire town is evacuated, though the fire has been contained as of 7:00pm.
First responders have been credited with keeping the fire contained. There have been no injuries reported, which is also due to the speed with which first responders acted. Coincidentally, the town just went through an emergency drill for exactly this sort of event a few months ago. Looks like it worked.
Justin Jacobs, speaking for Union Pacific stated that at least one car has leaked oil. He told reporters that hazardous response crews were on the way to the scene. The cause of the derailment is under investigation: this section of track had just been worked on less than a month ago. He also apologized on behalf of the railroad to Mosier, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest in general.
The Pacific Northwest “in general,” is no fan of oil being transported along the Columbia or, indeed, anywhere in the area. Just last month, 52 protesters were arrested for blocking the tracks north of Seattle. Demonstrators camped on the tracks that lead to two oil refineries near Anacortes. They plan on doing more of it, promising mass disobedience. This derailment strengthens their position.
A live feed from KGW in Portland can be found here.
Here is an earlier video report from KGW:
Featured image via video screen capture