BRIDGER - A cargo train derailed late Friday night outside of Bridger, and dozens of crew members have been onsite around the clock clearing the debris.
The cars that went off the tracks were carrying gasoline, animal fat and plywood. Although neither of the two people onboard the train were harmed, an estimated 31,000 gallons of gasoline spilled from damaged cars.
“We train for (derailments) all the time, but this is my first response to one,” said Clark's Fork Rural Fire & Rescue Assistant Chief Dillon Thomas, going into his 13th hour at the scene.
A local resident reported the derailment at around 11:30 on Friday. The BNSF train was heading east, and 15 of its approximately 115 cars went off the rails about a half-mile east of Bridger. Two of the derailed cars were carrying gasoline, and started leaking after the impact.
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HAZMAT personnel with BNSF worked to prevent contamination of the surrounding farmland. Evacuation warnings were issued to residents in the surrounding area, Thomas told the Gazette.
While BNSF crews are clearing the derailed cars, multiple local agencies will remain at the scene, said Maggie Karas with Carbon County Disaster and Emergency Services. Those agencies include Clark’s Fork Rural Fire, Bridger firefighters and police officers, along with members of the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office.
In the estimation of the amount of gasoline spilled by the derailment, Karas said one 30,000-gallon tank had emptied completely. A second damaged tank leaked about 1,000 gallons before BNSF workers repaired the tank. As of Saturday afternoon, there was no information available of the possible contamination of groundwater or the area's irrigation systems.
Carbon County Commissioner Scott Miller, whose district includes Bridger, lauded the efforts of BNSF and local first responders in a statement emailed to the Gazette. Some residents who woke up Saturday morning to a train derailment had also experienced the historic floods earlier this summer that tore through several Carbon County towns, he said.
Ben Wilemon with BNSF said in a email estimated the track would be reopened by Sunday afternoon.
"Our crews are in the process of removing the derailed cars. When cars are removed and remediation of the site is complete, crews perform grading for the track and install track panels. The current estimate for the track to reopen is Sunday afternoon. The cause of the derailment is under investigation," Wilemon said.
South River Road at the intersection of Rushwater Road was expected to remain closed through Saturday night.