Local firefighters say old railroad ties left behind pose fire hazard

22News spoke with the railroad company responsible for cleaning up the debris.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP)- Firefighters are concerned about piled-up old railroad ties left next to the improved rail line in western Massachusetts.

Amtrak’s Vermonter runs from Washington D.C. to St. Albans, Vermont and improvements to upgrade the track cost $73 million. But debris from work that has been done by Pan Am in western Massachusetts still needs to be picked up.

Along the improved tracks where Amtrak’s new high-speed Vermonter passenger train passes through western Massachusetts there is metal, bolts, and piles of old railroad ties left behind. “And that does cause some concern for us because they’re sort of in the perfect configuration to burn,” Northampton Fire Chief Brian Duggan said.

Chief Duggan told 22News some of the old ties are covered in creosote, which is extremely flammable and can make a fire more difficult to put out.   “There’s a lot of history that especially along railroad tracks either by incendiary nature or by the trains themselves that brush fires can start,” Duggan said.

You can actually smell the creosote coming off of some of the old rail ties. Pan Am says they’ve already cleaned up about 15 miles of debris along the new high-speed rail line. They’ve got about 35 miles more, which will take about 35 days.The old rail ties are put on a rail car, shipped up to Maine where they are recycled and turned into fuel.

Residents told 22News they want to see the  mess cleaned up. “I walk up this way once a day, and the other way on my second break of the day and there’s all these piles they look like potential bond fires, really dry wood. It looks like they’re soaked with oil. It appears like there’s some type of hazard going on,” John Schmitt, of Easthampton said.

Chief Duggan said Pan Am has been responsive and they hope to work together in solving the issue at hand.


Comments are closed.