5 fire departments help put out railroad freight car fire in Northfield

Fire Chief skip Dunnell believes sparks from the locomotive ignited the railroad ties.

WEST NORTHFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Northfield firefighters got help from four surrounding fire departments to put out a fire in two railroad freight cars Monday night.

Northfield Fire Chief Skip Dunnell told 22News there were ten “open-top” freight cars partially loaded with railroad ties.

Chief Dunnell said the two cars that were burning were right behind the locomotive, so they had to separate the engine from the rest of the train.

The burning train stopped at the River Road railroad crossing in West Northfield just after 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Chief Dunnell believes sparks from the locomotive ignited the railroad ties.

“It was an older train.  I don’t think the locomotive was equipped with spark arresters,” Chief Dunnell said.

The chief said it’s an uphill grade from Deerfield where the 20-car train loaded 10 freight cars with railroad ties.  He believes the engine may have thrown off sparks because of the grade.

Because there are no hydrants near the River Road crossing, the chief called in tankers from neighboring Gill, Irving, Bernardston and Vernon, VT.

Chief Dunnell said there were five tanker cars filled an unspecified hazardous material, but none of it escaped, and there was no release of any hazardous materials. The train was allowed to continue after the fire was out.  He said the load of railroad ties would eventually end up in Maine where it would be burned at a biomass plant to create electricity.

He said the area where the train stopped is agricultural and residential, but there were no houses within 1,000 feet of the burning railroad cars.