Fire damages railroad trestle north of Vancouver

Structure will be closed 2-4 weeks for repairs

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: July 13, 2011, 6:18 PM

 

A 100-foot railroad trestle in the Glenwood neighborhood north of Vancouver was severely damaged by an early Wednesday morning fire that smoldered for hours.

Firefighters were called at 4:22 a.m. to a trestle west of Northeast 87th Avenue and south of 119th Street after a driver spotted the blaze and called 911.

Initially reported as a building on fire, the first fire crews saw a glow coming from the railroad tracks and heavy smoke billowing overhead, said Vancouver fire Capt. David James. Two engines, two water tenders and two brush rigs responded.

Crews laid a quarter-mile of hose on the tracks to douse the flames. The fire smoldered for more than two hours before it was officially reported extinguished at 7:40 a.m., James said.

Fortunately, the fire did not spread to nearby grass or trees. “The rain we had yesterday did us a big favor,” James said. “It would have been a lot different story” if the weather was hot and dry.

The trestle, owned by Clark County and leased to Columbia Basin Railroad, is used for short, local deliveries between two Andersen Dairy locations, said Tim Kelly, chief financial officer of Columbia Basin Railroad. On average, the trestle is used once a month to ship plastic for processing. Kelly estimated that the last time the trestle had been traveled was about two weeks ago.

Officials said the trestle is about 100 years old, but has been repaired and retimbered numerous times.

The rail line eventually leads to Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, a 33-mile short line that offers rail excursion trips between Yacolt and Moulton Falls.

Jon Holladay, railroad coordinator for Clark County Public Works, said the trestle will be closed for two to four weeks for repairs.

Deputy fire marshals determined that the fire was human-caused. Firefighter Joe Spatz, an assistant VFD spokesman, said Wednesday afternoon that the fire marshals are investigating whether it was started accidentally or intentionally.

No dollar damage estimate had been calculated, Spatz said.

The heat warped the rails and trains can’t use the track over the wooden trestle until it’s fixed, Spatz said.

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516: Twitter: col_courts; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com. Staff writer John Branton contributed to this report.