Kentucky: Railcars Carrying Hazmats Derail, Burn for 36 Hours

In one of the nationâ??s biggest railroad hazmat incidents, 25 cars of an 80-car freight train derailed and burned in the community of Brooks.


Twenty-five cars of an 80-car CSX freight train enroute from Birmingham, AL, to Louisville, KY, derailed in the community of Brooks, in Bullitt County, KY, on Jan. 16, 2007. This incident would become the largest railroad hazardous materials incident on a CSX line in Kentucky and, at the time, the...


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Twenty-five cars of an 80-car CSX freight train enroute from Birmingham, AL, to Louisville, KY, derailed in the community of Brooks, in Bullitt County, KY, on Jan. 16, 2007. This incident would become the largest railroad hazardous materials incident on a CSX line in Kentucky and, at the time, the third-largest hazmat incident on a CSX line in North America.

Thirteen of the 25 derailed cars contained various hazardous materials, some of which were immediately engulfed in fire. The ensuing fire burned for 36 hours before 218 firefighters from 16 departments could extinguish it. In all, more than 600 emergency response personnel from 49 local, state and federal agencies were involved in the incident. Firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to nearby residential and commercial structures and kept the tank cars cool enough to prevent any "BLEVEs" (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions). The two-person train crew escaped unharmed. Interstate 65 was closed for eight miles in both directions for 12 hours and one local highway was closed for 15 days. Thirty-five people living in the immediate area were displaced for approximately six weeks. (This was the second hazardous materials incident involving a train in two days in Kentucky. On Jan. 15, four CSX railcars coasted nearly 20 miles before running into two parked locomotives in Irvine. The crash caused a spill and fire involving a tank car of butyl acetate, a flammable solvent. More than 300 employees of nearby businesses were evacuated for two days.)

The hazardous materials involved in the Brooks derailment included: four tank cars of butadiene; one tank car of chlorine; one tank car of methyl ethyl ketone; one tank car of ethoxylated alcohol; two tank cars of cyclohexane; one tank car of hydraulic fluid; one tank car of non-hazardous fatty alcohol and two tank cars of maleic anhydride. There were also three box cars carrying wood and paper products and two hopper cars carrying plastic pellets involved in the fire.

The Zoneton Fire District was dispatched at 8:46 A.M. for the derailment and fire at Hubber Station and Route 1020. Engines 8131, 8132 and 8134 and Truck 8151 responded with a total of 22 firefighters under the command of Chief Robert Orkies. At 8:51, Orkies requested mutual aid from the Okolona Fire Department, which sent Engines 8032 and 8034, Truck 8051 and Car 8003.

First-in Engine 8131 found a large fire that had spread to the highways on both sides of the railroad tracks. Highway 1020 (Coral Ridge Road) on the east side and Hubber Station Road on the west side ran parallel to the tracks. Engine 8131 laid 900 feet of supply line from a hydrant north of the incident to a position 600 feet away from the derailment on Highway 1020. The crew immediately placed the engine's deck gun into operation in an effort to cool the exposed tank cars. Truck 8151 was positioned 400 yards north of the derailment on Hubber Station Road and set up for aerial master stream operations. Engine 8132 laid 600 feet of supply line from a hydrant on Hubbard Station Road to Truck 8151. Truck 8051 approached the scene from the south on Highway 1020 and laid a 1,000-foot supply line from a hydrant on Highway 1020 to a position 700 feet away from the derailment and operated its aerial master stream.

Within the first hour, additional mutual aid was requested from Shepherdsville, Mount Washington, the Southeast Bullitt Fire Department and Louisville International Airport. Shepherdsville Fire Department Truck 9251 and its crew of five firefighters were assigned to the south side of the fire and assisted in setting up Truck 8051, then attempted to control the flammable liquid fire running in the ditch from the north to the south. Two handlines were placed into operation from Truck 9251. Two tankers from the Mount Washington Fire Department were staged on the north side of the fire and tankers from the Southeast Bullitt Fire Department were staged on the south side, all for possible shuttle operations. A crash-fire-rescue (CFR) truck with a crew of two responded from the airport and was staged north of the derailment.

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