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Locomotive burns on Summit

Paul Raymore
Sierra Sun
Photo by Paul RaymoreFirefighters from the Donner Summit Fire Department hose down a Union Pacific locomotive near Soda Springs on Friday.
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When the Union Pacific freight train heading eastbound from Fresno to North Platte, Neb. came to a stop in the middle of Soda Springs Road just after 3 p.m. on Jan. 28, one of the two rearmost locomotives was already engulfed in flames.

The crew in the back of the train had been choking on the burning diesel fumes for almost three miles, and all of them were reportedly standing outside of the cab of the rearmost locomotive, trying to get as much fresh air as possible. However, no one was injured in the fire.

Fire engines from the Donner Summit Fire Department, Truckee Fire and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection station in Alta arrived on the scene in succession, and the fire was extinguished quickly.

“It was exciting for about a minute… and then it’s just a lot of work,” said Patrick Campbell of the Donner Summit Fire Department at the scene.

One lane of Soda Springs Road near Donner Summit was closed for just more than two hours as firefighters hosed down the locomotive with three 750-gallon tanks of water once the flames were out. Firefighters were hoping to cool the engine enough so that it could safely be transported to the Union Pacific rail yard in Sparks, Nev.

Damage to the locomotive was extensive, but not as bad as it could have been, officials on scene said.

“My big concern was if the fire got in those fuel tanks, which are about 5,000 gallons,” Campbell said.

John Bromley, a spokesman for Union Pacific, said the train proceeded to Sparks without further incident, and neither the amount of damage to the locomotive nor the cause of the fire had been determined by press time Tuesday.


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