March 8, 2015 / 6:28 PM / in 3 years

Fires dwindling in Illinois oil train blaze after derailment

March 8 (Reuters) - Firefighters on Sunday were still working to extinguish the last of a series of fires that erupted when a BNSF Railway train loaded with crude oil derailed two days ago in a rural area south of Galena, Illinois, a local official said.

The incident marked the latest in a series of derailments in North America involving trains hauling crude oil, heightening focus on rail safety.

Nobody was injured in the fiery Thursday wreck, in which 21 cars of a 105-car BNSF train that originated in North Dakota derailed about 3 miles outside Galena, a town of just over 3,000 near the border with Wisconsin.

Five of the 103 cars packed with Bakken crude oil caught fire, sending plumes of black smoke and fireballs over the area, city and company officials said.

By Sunday, one fire was still burning and crews were building a temporary road and platform over marshy land surrounding the site in order to haul away the damaged cars, Galena City Administrator Mark Moran told Reuters.

Some 50 large trucks were using material from a local quarry to build the “haul road,” which is expected to be finished today, Moran said. There are still 10 cars that need to be either removed or rerailed, he said.

BNSF said in a statement it anticipates its mainline track will become operational again on Monday.

Local, state and federal officials are assessing damage and environmental contamination in the area, a heavily wooded region near the confluence of the Galena and Mississippi rivers. Moran said Sunday no problems had been reported to him so far.

BNSF, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, said the cause of the derailment was under investigation and it has set up a claims center to help residents who may have suffered property damage or need temporary relocation.

About 40 to 50 oil trains come through the region each week, local officials said.

The accident is the latest involving oil trains in the United States and Canada, including the derailment of a Canadian National Railway Co train earlier on Saturday.

The train went off the tracks in the northern Ontario community of Gogama, with the crew reporting a fire but no injuries.

In 2013, some 47 people were killed in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded. Another incident occurred in West Virginia three weeks ago. (Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Chris Reese)

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