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Ethanal Tank Cars Derail, Catch Fire

March 10, 2017
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

A derailment of 27 tank cars filled with Ethanol shortly before 1 a.m. Friday morning resulted in a large fire that continues to burn some 12 hours later near Graettinger.

The 101-car Union Pacific train was southbound a mile southeast of Graettinger early Friday morning when a nearby resident reported hearing the screeching of metal and then saw flames in a farm field along the Union Pacific Tracks. The Graettinger Fire Department was page to the scene and established a perimeter with assistance from the Palo Alto County Sheriff's Office, Emmetsburg Fire Department and Graettinger Ambulance Service.

Flames were visible up to eight miles southeast of the derailment as the ethanol burned following the incident. Firefighters elected to let the fire burn, rather than attempt to douse the flames. The lead locomotives and 19 tankers were parked a distance from the site and the train crew was able to uncouple 46 cars from the rear of the derailment site and pull them away from the scene using a locomotive at the rear of the train. A total of 27 tankers are involved in the derailment, with nine tank cars remaining on the rails. Several tank cars ended up in Jack Creek, which flows into the West Fork of the Des Moines River.

Article Photos

Flames billowed into the sky early Friday morning after 27 cars of a Union Pacific freight train derailed one mile southeast of Graettinger, Iowa. No injuries were reported in the derailment, but the train's cargo of Ethanol continues to burn in the wreckage. -- Dan Voigt photo

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is at the scene monitoring the water in the stream.

The National Transportation Safety Board assumed control of the scene at mid-morning.

No injuries have been reported in the incident.

Residents of four homes within a half-mile of the scene were evacuated as a precaution by authorities.



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