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Locomotive fire prompts evacuation scare - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

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Locomotive fire prompts evacuation scare

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CLINTON - A  flaming train engine prompted the Clinton Rural Fire District to consider evacuating the town.

“I came around the corner and I just saw the big flames sticking up from the exhaust," said Clinton resident Jeff Ritenour. "So I actually turned around and went back to the school in case there is an explosion. I just thought this could be ugly.”

Ritenour and his family live directly across the tracks where flames were shooting out the top of the engine car. Emergency responders arrived on scene just after 4 p.m. on Sunday and realized the train was carrying oil tankers.

Clinton Rural Fire Chief Brian Vibbert said that if the crews could separate the cars from the engine they were preparing to evacuate the town.

“We might not have even had enough water to put out an engine fire, " said Chief Vibbert. "Our priority would have been getting the Clinton people out but… judging by the distance between the track in the houses it really would have been an inconvenience for the homeowners but something we were evaluating.”

Crews maintained their distance from the fire while trying to suppress the flames and Montana Rail Link was able to detach the oil tankers from the engine, which made an evacuation necessary. 

It was later discovered that the oil tanks were empty, but the burning engine was attached to its fuel supply, which would have threatened homes in the immediate vicinity. 

“Initially, flames were judged to be 15' high, the engine is attached to an oil tanker car...[then] come multiple oil cars, we were told that they were empty," Vibbert said. 

"MRL was already on scene upon our arrival, we deployed hoses, we sprayed water on the car behind the engine and the fire slowly burned itself out. We never did put any water on the engine itself. Mostly because we didn't wanna get too close.”

MRL dispatched an investigator to determine the cause of ignition, while crews stayed on scene to monitor temperatures.

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