E&N trestle blaze stops rail service
Sparks from Dayliner could have started fire, captain says
Norman Gidney Times Colonist, with files from The Canadian Press
A spectacular fire damaged a 35-metre wooden trestle on the E&N Railway at Nanaimo late Monday afternoon, forcing the suspension of freight and passenger service north of that city.
"The trestle is closed. It needs to be inspected," said Anne Venema, general manager of E&N Railfreight, which owns the railway running from Victoria to Courtenay.
A structural engineer was to visit the site today to check the charred trestle, and the company is working with officials of the B.C. rail safety section, she said. "We're in that process right now," Venema said Monday night.
The scheduled Dayliner passenger service of Via Rail was to leave from Victoria today as usual at 8:15 a.m. Passengers headed north of Nanaimo will switch to a bus at that point and the process will be reversed for the afternoon return trip.
Flames burned furiously in the creosoted timbers and rail ties, producing huge amounts of thick black smoke visible from as far off as Parksville, 10 kilometres north of the fire.
The trestle parallels the highway a short distance west of Woodgrove shopping centre in Nanaimo's north end.
Capt. Norm Maybin of Nanaimo Fire Department said firefighters at the scene reported that the heat from the fire caused the rails and supporting structure to warp.
"It got so intense it picked up the ties four or five inches. It warped the rails -- the rails themselves won't be straight," he said.
The cause of the fire was being investigated but "all indications were it was the train itself," said Maybin.
He speculated that it could have been a seized-up wheel bearing, dropping sparks generated by friction.
"That still is under investigation. We don't know that at this point. Arson is not being ruled out," said Venema.
Lou Fasullo was driving home south from Parksville when he first saw signs of the fire and was one of the first people at the scene.
"There was this huge cloud of smoke coming up," said Fasullo, who pulled over on the highway when he got near the blaze and went closer on foot to take dramatic shots with his digital camera.
By the time he got to the site, just as firefighters were arriving, "the trestle was fully ablaze," said Fasullo.
The creosote covering the trestle created big clouds of smoke, and "a thick, oily, chemical smell."
Assistant fire chief Wade Smith said it took only 20 minutes to douse the flames and they were hosing down the last hot spots about 5 p.m. There were no injuries, and no trains or railway equipment was at risk.
One problem created by the fire was a creosote slick that formed on a nearby lake. Smith said city crews were bringing in booms to contain the oily surface pollution.
The B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection had also been alerted, and headed to the site.
The Dayliner passenger car of Via Rail Canada, which uses the E&N line, had passed over the trestle shortly after 3 p.m. The first calls reporting a brush fire came in about 4 p.m. A freight train had also travelled the same section of line earlier, Venema said.
The southbound Dayliner coming from Courtenay -- already at Nanaimo station -- was checked before continuing its usual return trip down the Island to Victoria.
Lantzville volunteer firefighters were first on the scene, answering an initial call from a resident of Clark Drive, just north of the Nanaimo boundary and about a kilometre from the trestle.
The trestle carries trains along the east side of Green Lake and over a small stream that runs through Dunbar Park. Fire also spread to brush along the right-of-way.
Nanaimo and Lantzville together had about 40 firefighters and four trucks on the fire scene.
© Copyright 2004 Times Colonist (Victoria)
FIRE HITS NANAIMO RAIL TRESTLE: Flames engulf a 35-metre-long wooden train trestle at the north end of Nanaimo on Monday.
CREDIT: Lou Fasullo photo
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Thread: Kuull Fire Shot
04-06-2004, 10:47 AM #1
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04-06-2004, 01:00 PM #2
I've done one of those! They must have had good access if the fire was out in 20 min. Mine was several hundred yards off the highway across a muddy field and was more like 2 hours of hard labor. We wound up using a floating pump in the river that the trestle crossed and hand jacked lots of hose. The railroad had the bridge back open in 3 days.ullrichk
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