PORTLAND --The mechanics of a derailment, collision and possible spills of ethanol into the Multnomah Channel will be investigated Thursday after a spectacular two-alarm fire Wednesday on Hwy 30 just west of Cornelius Pass Road.
PHOTOS: Fiery scene at train collision
The National Transportation Safety Board, the Portland Fire Bureau and train owners Genessee & Wyoming will focus on the train wreck. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard will be checking into reports of a sheen on the Multnomah Channel of the Columbia River.
Derailment causes fiery blaze
A train with 59 lumber cars was traveling westbound parallel to Hwy 30 Wednesday afternoon when it derailed. The derailed trains hit a group of 20 stationary tanker cars on a side track, including 13 ethanol tanker cars.
The impact triggered a fiery two-alarm blaze, and led to evacuation of homes in the area and the closure of Hwy 30. Flames were not extinguished until late afternoon.
Jim Miller watched the train with logs actually derail, a car dragging along and tracks getting torn up.
"It looked like it was going to tip right there," he said track-side. "My cousin was like 'its going over, its going over!'"
Dan Riser witnessed the derailment and tried to flag down the conductor.
"It was already too late," he said. "You could see it was derailed and there was flames."
Multiple crews from the Portland Fire Bureau, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and Scappoose Fire Department were dispatched, but were forced to retreat due to the threat of an explosion of nearby tankers holding 20,000 gallons of ethanol, and concerns about possible toxic fumes, Portland Fire & Rescue crews said.
Crews from St. Johns Station 22 were the first to arrive, according to Scott Fisher, PF&R Division Chief of Emergency Operations.
"And had it not been for their decisive actions and quick deployment of turrets and aerial streams to cool down the tankers before having to withdraw because of imminent danger, this incident could have ended quite differently."
Fire crews used unmanned "ground turrets" to send streams of water to cool nearby uninvolved tankers to prevent an explosion.
All roads were reopened Thursday morning, although Hwy 30 remained restricted to one lane in each direction.