MOSIER, Ore., June 4 (UPI) — An Oregon community has been evacuated and environmental precautions have been taken after an oil train derailed and two cars sparked a blazing fire.
The derailment took place Friday in Columbia River Gorge, near the small town of Mosier — about 70 miles east of Portland — where all of its 440 residents were reportedly told to evacuate, The Los Angeles Times said.
The incident occurred near the Columbia River, but oil has not been thought to have affected it, according to the Washington Department of Ecology. The agency placed oil containment booms into the river as a precautionary measure, it announced. “Right now there are no impacts to the Columbia River from any oil releases,” Greg Svelund, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, said. “We can say that with confidence.”
The 95-car train was carrying Bakken crude oil to Tacoma, Wash. from Eastport, Idaho, a spokesman from transport company Union Pacific, Jeff Jacobs, told CNN.Eleven of the cars were the ones that derailed.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said no houses or other structures were directly damaged by the derailment, although it did occur close to a motor home community.
“I’m extremely grateful to the myriad of public and private individuals and organizations across two states who have responded to this situation very swiftly and very effectively,” she said.
A cooling operation reportedly began Friday afternoon and was expected to continue through the night, Brown added.
About 90 percent of communities near the railroad along the Columbia River Gorge are unprepared to fight such oil fires, according to a survey reported by the L.A. Times.
“A majority of fire agencies with crude oil trains traveling through their jurisdictions … do not have enough equipment to respond to a crude oil incident,” the survey reportedly said.
Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer said in a statement following the incident it is “a dangerous and tragic event.”
“Seeing our beautiful Columbia River Gorge on fire today should be a wake-up call for federal and state agencies — underscoring the need to complete comprehensive environmental reviews of oil-by-rail in the Pacific Northwest,” he said.
The site of the derailment is also near a fishing community owned by the Yakama Nation tribe. The tribe’s chairman, JoDe Goudy, released a statement saying his community has “repeatedly warned of train derailments, corresponding oil spills, and the contamination that could result when these trains are carrying crude oil.”