Massive debris fire west of downtown Phoenix under investigation
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Investigators are trying to determine what caused a large debris fire that forced the temporary closure of Interstate 10 just west of downtown Phoenix. It happened Wednesday night at a railyard near 19th Avenue and Fillmore Street. Crews arrived at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to find a large pile of railroad ties burning. Firefighters immediately called for more resources and set up defensive positions to attack the flames.
The smoke was so thick that the Arizona Department of Transportation had to shut I-10 in both directions at 7th Avenue. Because railroad ties are treated with creosote and chemical preservatives to keep them from rotting, there were concerns about “the hazardous materials component” of the fire.
It took between 50 and 60 firefighters from several Valley fire departments about two hours to knock down the fire. Crews stayed on the scene all night to handle hotspots and flare-ups. Smoke was still billowing off the charred rubble Thursday morning.
Phoenix Fire Captain Todd Keller said the railroad ties had been in that location for about 10-15 years. “I was talking to some of the workers out there, and they said that those are 8-foot railroad ties that they are replacing with concrete ties now, and they’ve been sitting out there for close to 10 to 15 years. So it was just a big bonfire with a bunch of wood logs,” Keller said. “I can tell you that wind was not a factor, which was on our side. It was less than 5 miles an hour so that smoke and that fire kept vertically and not horizontally extending to those railroad cars that were east of that fire.”
Keller says it took about 2 hours to put the fire out. “It can take 8 hours, it can take 1 hour, but I can tell you right now those fire men and women did an absolute fabulous job knocking down that fire last night,” Keller said.
ADOT reopened I-10 just before 11:30 p.m. Wednesday as firefighters started to gain control of the massive flames. No injuries were reported.
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