Video: Trains collide, massive flames erupt in Oregon

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 5/4/2011 10:59:17 PM ET 2011-05-05T02:59:17

A train derailment ignited several tanker cars full of ethanol Wednesday, touching off a massive fire that prompted the evacuation of nearby residents and blocked a major highway for hours.

No injuries were reported, Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman Paul Corah said.

A normally busy stretch of U.S. Highway 30 northwest of Portland was closed for hours and fire officials said a half-mile area around the blaze was temporarily evacuated Wednesday afternoon.

About 250 firefighters battled the two-alarm blaze, extinguishing it after four hours, Corah said.

National Transportation Safety Board representatives will be sorting out exactly what happened, the fire department spokesman said.

A Portland & Western train with 59 cars mainly carrying logs was traveling westbound when several cars derailed, said Mike Williams, spokesman for Genesee & Wyoming, which owns Portland & Western.

The derailed cars struck a stationary 20-car train, that included 12 tanker cars of ethanol.

Corah said two tanker cars — each carrying 28,000 gallons of ethanol — caught fire, as did a freight car from the log train.

The accident sparked a huge fire visible for more than a mile outside Scappoose and forced the closure of the highway, KGW-TV reported.

Businesses and residents within a half-mile radius of the blaze were also evacuated, according to KGW.

Williams said the only two people on the train that derailed — a conductor and an engineer — escaped safely.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Representatives of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Quality responded to assess the environmental impact due to runoff from the firefighting effort, Corah said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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