Train hauling Cheetos catches fire in
Published: July 15th 2009
Source: BY HEATHER ABREY, ENTERPRISE STAFF
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least burning Cheetos aren't considered hazardous material, despite
their radioactive orange colour.
Caledon Fire and Emergency Services attended the
train tracks near Ellwood Drive West and Station Road on Thursday,
July 9 at 3:54 p.m. after reports of a "car fire". As it turned out,
the car was actually a train car, and its contents of foodstuffs was
on fire, with flames and smoke visible from the double-stacked
freight when firefighters arrived.
The flaming car contained Cheetos in the top and
Haagen-Dazs ice cream in the bottom, but three cars to the west and
eight cars to the east did contain hazardous products.
Despite the presence of hazardous material on the
train though, there was never a risk. "The type of temperatures
generated by this fire, even if they were free burning, would have
had no impact on the other cars," said Caledon Fire Chief Brad
Bigrigg. The hazardous cars were quite a ways down the line in
either direction, and rail crews were very quick and efficient about
separating the train. “I was more than pleased and satisfied by the
conduct of the railway crew."
Canadian Pacific Railway staff confirmed that all
traffic on the rail lines was shut down and worked with Caledon Fire
teams to separate the affected freight car from the rest of the 94
car, two-engine train while other teams of firefighters commenced an
offensive attack to prevent the flames from spreading.
Once the car was separated firefighters were able
to douse it with water and open the doors, causing flames to flare
up, but allowing the team to knock down the fire in the two freight
There were several challenges posed by the
"extraordinary" nature of this fire. "The very first challenge is
that we're right on a main rail line, so all rail traffic had to be
stopped," said Bigrigg. Other challenges included accessing the
train and having to access water from Ellwood Drive and run hoses to
the rail tracks. "My biggest fear was that someone would get hurt
working around the train, not actually from the fire."
Rail and Fire crews moved quickly to isolate the
train and give firefighters more access and minimize risk. "The
railways were exceptional to work with... they did exactly what we
had been taught that they would do in the event of an emergency.
They had all the answers when we asked the questions and we don't
always get that," said Bigrigg, adding that working with the rail
crews was "refreshing and reassuring". "The second part was getting
sufficient people and sufficient water," explained the Fire Chief.
The fire was detected around 4 p.m. when there were few available
volunteer firefighters. "They would be going to work and coming home
from work and not actually in Bolton."
But the most hazardous part of the operation,
according to Bigrigg, and probably the most dramatic to watch, was
the opening of the freight doors. "It was very hot inside there,
there was lots of smoke and as soon as it got the fresh air from
opening the doors in took right off," he explained. Aside from the
heat and the flaring flames, there was the danger of the unknown -
not knowing how the cargo was sitting. Pieces of flaming boxes and
cargo fell when the doors were opened. "It's only Cheetos, but had
it been something else there was an opportunity for firefighters to
It took approximately 90 minutes to extinguish the
It’s believed that the train was instructed to
stop where it was because of an accident on the rail line in
Alliston, and that rail crews may have discovered the fire while
doing a routine check.
"We believe that it may have started in the bottom
car and spread to the top car, but the bulk of the damage was done
to the top car, which would have been the Cheetos car," said Bigrigg.
No injuries were reported as a result of the
incident, and no evacuation was necessary.
Some area residents came by to watch the
firefighters work, and as a result of traffic re-routing Highway 50
was backed up to the top of the south hill, at times past the
Ellwood Drive and Highway 50 intersection.
"There wasn't too much interruption to the
community, and we're always mindful of that, and we're mindful of
the economy by not putting people out of business by closing roads
or closing the rail line," said Bigrigg.
Once the fire was extinguished the train was
removed from the main tracks to a nearby property with a loading
track. This allowed firefighters to gain access to the interior of
the containers with the assistance of heavy equipment provided by a
private contracting firm. Access crews were able to ensure the
contents of the car was fully extinguished.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation
and damage costs are estimated at $100,000.
Bolton, Palgrave and Snelgrove fire stations
responded, as well as Peel EMS, Caledon OPP, Canadian Pacific
Police, Canadian Pacific staff, a private excavating firm and the
Ministry of Environment.
The cause of the fire is still under
investigation, but Caledon Fire and Emergency Services will be
recouping costs by sending CP Rail a bill, and decisions will be
made from there.