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Sat, Oct. 19

Williams Fire helps put out train blaze

Williams firefighters and railway crews put out an engine fire on a BNSF locomotive Aug. 22. Photo/Williams Fire Department

Williams firefighters and railway crews put out an engine fire on a BNSF locomotive Aug. 22. Photo/Williams Fire Department

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The Williams Volunteer Fire Department responded to a train fire on Aug. 22.

According to Fire Chief Chase Pearson, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) requested assistance with an engine compartment fire on one of their locomotives near Airport Road.

The BNSF railway crew had mostly contained the fire and fire fighters used extinguishers and water to finish putting out the fire.

"The train crew had pretty much handled the fire," Pearson said. "And they helped us with access to the engine to get the fire completely out."

Pearson said firefighters and railway crew did not know what caused the fire, but he said most locomotive fires occur in the heat distributing area within the engine compartment where carbon often builds up and can catch on fire.

According to Operation Lifesaver, a locomotive's sheer size, horsepower, and electrical voltages demands caution from fire fighters. Locomotives weigh up to 230 tons and produce up to 6,000 horsepower. They often have a 74-volt starter system with 600 volts direct current (DC). Additionally, locomotives may have up to 5,500 gallons of hazardous diesel fuel, 400 gallons of lubricating oil and 380 gallons of cooling water.

Pearson said fire department calls have increased this year compared to last year. He said the department usually responds to 120-150 calls per year. Typical calls are for structure fires, emergency medical services, automobile accidents, and hazardous materials spills.

The Williams department responds to calls within the city limits and occasionally provides mutual aid to other agencies.

The fire department uses a pager system through the city of Williams dispatch. The department currently has 27 volunteers with room for 30.

"We've changed how we respond this year," Pearson said. "We do have a fairly high turnover rate. (We're making it) so it's not so taxing on the volunteers.

Pearson said the department has a new notification system that sends pages and texts to responders. Firefighters will now know what type of response is needed and help them return to their jobs quickly if they are not needed.

"It has a way for us to see who's available and who's responding," Pearson said. "So when we show up to the station, we know who is right behind us or who else is showing up. Many times middle of the week day time calls are hard because people can't leave work. Now we're letting them know so they aren't there any longer than they need to be."

Pearson said WFD is planning to have an open house in the near future to share a recently acquired vintage fire truck with the public.

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