Saskatoon

Railcars 'accordioned into a big pile' in Sask. CP derailment, fire chief says

The derailment of a Canadian Pacific Railway train near Guernsey, Sask., on Monday left about 18 to 20 leaking and fiery oil cars "accordioned into a big pile," says one of the fire chiefs who saw the scene.

Fires from crude oil spill contained and rail line reopened as of late Tuesday morning

Train cars were in a pile at the derailment site. This photo was taken Tuesday afternoon, as crews cleaned up the five to 10 acres affected by the spill. (Don Somers/CBC)

The derailment of a Canadian Pacific Railway train near Guernsey, Sask., on Monday left about 18 to 20 leaking and fiery oil cars "accordioned into a big pile," says one of the fire chiefs who saw the scene.

Shortly after midnight Monday, a train carrying crude oil derailed just south of Highway 16, causing an enormous blaze. Nobody was injured and CP has said that there was no impact to nearby waterways.

As of late Tuesday morning, the fire was contained and the rail line had reopened, according to a statement from CP. The cleanup effort is well underway, according to a separate note from the Saskatchewan government.

Mike Kwasnica, the fire chief for the volunteer Humboldt Fire Department, says one tanker and two crew members helped ferry water to the main firefighting crew, from the Lanigan Fire Department.

Some people have been fighting the fire for more than 24 hours in brutal winter conditions, Kwasnica said. 

"With the wind chills, we had a lot of problems with freezing up of valves," he said. "Basically anything we tried to use — the foam was freezing, the water was freezing. That's the biggest thing: trying to keep everything from getting too cold, as well as the people that are on site, making sure that they're warm and fed and with coffee."

Humboldt fire chief Mike Kwasnica said cold weather and high winds hampered the firefighting at some points. (Don Somers/CBC)

Kwasnica also offered a description of the wreckage.

"Black tanker cars that we see go down the tracks normally were a big pile," he said. "And on one-half of the pile, there was some leaking cars. But on the other half of the pile, I would say, guesstimating, 18 to 20 were [in] a pile that were basically all leaking and on fire."

According to the province, a crew of about 100 responders remain at the scene, which covers about five to 10 acres. Some damaged rail cars are being removed from the site. 

A train carrying oil derailed and caught fire east of Saskatoon. (CBC News)

'Crews out there working hard'

Local resident Melaine Loessl's driveway runs parallel to the train tracks. Early Tuesday, she said the flames seemed less intense than they were Monday.

"There's a few times this morning that I've seen them going higher. I'm not sure if that's because they're moving stuff or what. But there's lots of smoke yet," she said. "I see a lot of crews out there working hard."

Loessl said she saw camps of workers with gravel trucks, backhoes, graders and overhead lights. 

"There's so much equipment going on out there. Some of the [train] cars that were burned in the daylight, I saw some of them had oil on the outside of them that had burned." 

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said Tuesday that for safety reasons, its investigators had not yet gone onto the site.

Smoke from burning oil, the result of the derailment, was visible from kilometres away. (Albert Couillard/SRC)

Further updates from the TSB were expected later Tuesday.   

Loessl said she's wondering about the cause of the derailment. She said she saw maintenance work done to the train track this past fall.

Watch video of Monday's blaze shot by Loessl:

Melanie Loessl shot this video of a derailed CP Rail train on her farmyard early Monday morning. 0:34

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips and ideas welcomed at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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