On Friday night, a train derailed near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, causing a massive fire that continues to burn 24 hours later. As the fire reduces in intensity, it remains active and chemicals from the wreckage are being released into the air. Mayor Trent Conaway has declared a state of emergency for the Village of East Palestine, Ohio as hazmat teams, specialists, and investigators from Norfolk Southern, environmental agencies, and the National Transportation Safety Board step in to handle the situation.
The train consisted of 141 loaded cars, nine empty cars, and three locomotives, with 20 of them containing hazardous materials. Out of the 50 derailed cars, 10 were carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride. The fire started as a result of the derailment and lit up the sky in the village with a population of 4,800 to 4,900 people.
First responders from nearly 70 emergency agencies in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania quickly mobilized to the scene. They went street-by-street to block off traffic and evacuate a one-mile radius around the crash site. Approximately 2,000 people live within the evacuated area, and shelters were set up at East Palestine High School and New Waterford Community Center to accommodate those who had to leave their homes.
Despite the intense fire, air quality readings remain safe, and there have not been any reports of injuries to the train crew, first responders, or members of the community. The two main tracks at the crash site are still blocked.
The fire is flammable, and the location and cold water system in the area are making it difficult for fire crews to contain the flames. Water is being poured on the fire, but it’s only going so far. Local crews have sought assistance from hazmat teams and private companies to handle the situation.
As the situation continues to develop, the priority remains the safety of the community and first responders. Officials are monitoring the air quality and working to contain the fire as quickly and efficiently as possible.