On The Job: ILLINOIS

On Friday, June 19, 2009, a Canadian National freight train derailed and caught fire in Cherry Valley, IL. The train consisted of two engines, one car carrying scrap metal, one empty liquid tank car, 36 empty cars, one car carrying gravel and 74 tank...


On Friday, June 19, 2009, a Canadian National freight train derailed and caught fire in Cherry Valley, IL. The train consisted of two engines, one car carrying scrap metal, one empty liquid tank car, 36 empty cars, one car carrying gravel and 74 tank cars, each containing 28,800 gallons of...


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On Friday, June 19, 2009, a Canadian National freight train derailed and caught fire in Cherry Valley, IL. The train consisted of two engines, one car carrying scrap metal, one empty liquid tank car, 36 empty cars, one car carrying gravel and 74 tank cars, each containing 28,800 gallons of ethanol. Before the incident was concluded, firefighters and equipment from 33 fire departments in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin responded to the scene or provided coverage at Cherry Valley fire stations.

A weather front moved through northern Illinois on Friday evening, dumping more than four inches of rain on Cherry Valley and Rockford and causing widespread flash flooding. More than three inches of rain fell between 7 and 8 P.M. Cherry Valley fire companies consisting of two engines, one ladder, one heavy rescue, one technical rescue and boat, two advanced life support (ALS) ambulances with 22 firefighters and Battalion Chief Bill LeFevre had been busy rescuing motorists from vehicles that were caught in the flash flooding of roadways. Just before the derailment, calls to the Winnebago County 911 center reported that the railroad tracks at 3400 South Mulford Road were washed out.

The Canadian National train enroute from Tara, IA, to Chicago, IL, was 6,940 feet long containing 114 rail cars. Nineteen cars of ethanol derailed with 15 cars involved in fire with 323,963 gallons burning.

Initial Response

At 8:38 P.M., while returning from the water rescues, units from the Cherry Valley Fire Protection District were dispatched to Mulford Road and Sandy Hollow Road for a reported train derailment with explosions. Cherry Valley Fire Chief Craig Wilt and Deputy Chief Doug Hayes also responded on the initial dispatch. Due to numerous 911 calls reporting the incident and giving different locations, as it was on the border of Cherry Valley and Rockford, the city of Rockford also dispatched two engines, one ladder, two quints, one hazmat unit, two aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) trucks, two advanced life support (ALS) ambulances and two district chiefs.

Upon arrival, Wilt advised incoming units of a train derailment involving multiple tank cars of unknown product with a major fire. Many pressure-relief valves could be heard operating. The derailment occurred at a crossing with Mulford Road, a heavily traveled north-south road, and was blocking the roadway. The next-closest highway crossings were three miles to the east and west.

Wilt assumed command and established the command post at the intersection of Mulford Road and Abbington on the north side of derailment. The first ambulances, Cherry Valley 1C13 on the north side and Cherry Valley 1C56 with Rockford 1C28 on the south side, arrived just ahead of Wilt and were advised immediately that they were too close and to back out to the command post on the north and Sandy Hollow and Mulford Road to the south. Both locations were a quarter-mile from the burning tank cars. Both Cherry Valley ambulances and one Rockford ambulance reported they had burn victims, two with critical burns, and one fatality on the south side, and three to four victims on the north side with minor to moderate burns. Command advised all ambulances they were to load the victims and pull back to a safe area and treat the victims there. LeFevre was assigned as the chief's aide.

Units arriving on the north side included Cherry Valley Engine 503, Ladder 551, Rescue 541 and Ambulance 1C13 along with Rockford Quint 5, a hazmat unit, two ARFF units from Rockford Airport and a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Division 8 decontamination truck. Command advised that the first-arriving unit on the south was to take the South Sector. Units arriving on the south side included Cherry Valley Engine 502, Technical Rescue 543, Tenders 571 and 572, Ambulance IC56 and Brush 562. Rockford Engines 2 and 10, Ladder 2, Quint 7, District Chiefs 1 and 2 (Lynn Washburn Livingston and Steven Preiss), and two ambulances.

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