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Flaming train speeds through London, flooding 911 with calls

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The crew aboard a flaming freight train that rolled through London late Sunday disconnected the burning cars from others used to carry hazardous material, fire officials say.

Platoon chief Colin Shewell credits the actions of the two-person train crew and the more than two dozen firefighters who worked to douse the train fire for avoiding any injuries or significant damage to property.

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Multiple citizens called 911 to report an eastbound Canadian Pacific Kansas City train on fire along Oxford Street near Cherryhill Village Mall at about 10:45 p.m. Firefighters intercepted the train on Pall Mall Street, just east of Richmond Street, where they used water and nearly 250 litres of foam to suppress the flames, Shewell said.

“Our first initial crews got on scene and they put up a defensive attack so that we were containing the fire and it wouldn’t migrate inside the (nearby) building,” Shewell said. “And we were able to bring it under control within an hour.”

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The fire caused an estimated $10,000 damage to a building at the corner of Pall Mall and Waterloo streets, plus $25,000 damage to the five steel train cars, Shewell said. They were transporting old wooden railway ties.

Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) officials say the incident remained under investigation Monday but didn’t provide any additional information or respond to a list of questions.

“We thank the London first responders for their effective response to the fire last night,” spokesperson Terry Cunha said in a statement.

CPKC, the railway company that resulted from the 2023 merger of Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern, has around 32,000 kilometres of tracks running through Canada, the United States and Mexico.

A London police spokesperson referred all inquires to CPKC police.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is aware of the incident and is gathering information but hasn’t yet sent any investigators to the scene, spokesperson Sophie Wistaff said.

Shewell praised the quick-thinking actions of the train conductor and engineer – the only people aboard the train – for disconnecting the flaming cars from the section of the train that had empty hazardous materials cars.

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“Very heads-up move by the train crew,” he said. “And they were a wealth of information on-scene when our crews got there.”

Images and videos of the flaming train passing through London were posted on social media, where one video drew more than 55,000 views, and the London fire department also posted real-time updates on the incident to keep the public informed and away from the scene near downtown.

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Cars that were burning as a train traveled through London were parked in a rail yard in the city on Monday April 22, 2024. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press

The damaged rail cars were taken to the train yard on Quebec Street, where firefighters doused them with more water until around 4:30 a.m. Monday, Shewell said.

“This was a sensational fire,” Shewell said. “But at the end of the day, crews did what they needed to do.”

dcarruthers@postmedia.com

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