Image: Freight train derailment
Drew Aukerman  /  AP
In this image provided by ABC affiliate WTVG 13, a fire burns at the scene of a freight train derailment near Arcadia, Ohio, on Sunday.
updated 2/6/2011 5:58:58 PM ET 2011-02-06T22:58:58

Several tanker cars carrying volatile chemicals continued to burn Sunday evening after a freight train derailed and caused an explosion in northwest Ohio, a fire official said.

Some residents who earlier had been forced to evacuate have returned to their homes.

No injuries were reported after about half the cars on the 62-car train derailed in a rural area about 50 miles south of Toledo, said Capt. Jim Breyman of the Arcadia Fire Department. He estimated about 15 cars — each carrying more than 30,000 gallons of ethanol — exploded and caught fire early Sunday morning.

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The train was headed from Chicago to North Carolina and loaded with ethanol, said Norfolk Southern spokesman Rudy Husband. He said he had no information on what caused the derailment.

The fire was subsiding, and most of the ethanol was expected to be burned off. But it could take a day or two before the fire is completely out, Breyman said.

"I feel pretty safe that things are getting a lot better," he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring the air quality in the area.

Some ethanol got into the mouth of a nearby creek, but was being contained, Breyman said. He said he did not know how much had gotten into the water.

Carol Hester, a spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA, said absorbent materials have been placed into the water keep the ethanol from moving in the stream. She said the agency was monitoring the waterway.

Authorities were called to an intense and dramatic scene at about 2:15 a.m.

"We're talking fireballs," Breyman said of the explosion. "When they went thousands of feet in the air, they could be seen from 20-plus miles away."

About 20 homes had been evacuated in the area about two miles west of the village of Arcadia. Eight were still evacuated by mid-afternoon Sunday, Breyman said.

Breyman said cars are stacked three- or four-high in some places, and are melted. Others are lying on their sides, but not burning.

"We're not talking huge large fires at this point," Breyman said. "Compared to what it was, it's really very mild."

Authorities initially were concerned that the derailment and explosions happened next to a fertilizer plant. Breyman said it was fortunate the fire didn't spread there.

___

Associated Press writer Sofia Mannos in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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