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February 15, 2021: Major Train Derailment Sparks Fire in Normal, IL

A Union Pacific freight train derailed near Hester Avenue in Normal, Illinois around 5 am on Saturday. Approximately 16 cargo train cars derailed causing a mass of debris, containers, and semitrailers to spill onto the tracks and surrounding areas. The debris snapped telephone poles and tore down wrought-iron fencing as it moved down the track.
Shortly after the derailment, a fire broke out when the refrigeration unit inside one of the semitrailers, which runs on diesel fuel and Freon, ruptured. The fire engulfed two semitrailers and damaged the siding to a nearby apartment building.
There were no injuries reported and the train was not hauling any hazardous materials.
The Normal Fire Department released the following statement regarding the fire. “Water used during firefighting efforts mixed with a material identified as non-toxic water-soluble paint that was present in the spilled cargo from the derailed train. The paint mixed with the water and entered the storm drains which lead to Sugar Creek. Attempts were made to put a floating boom across the creek to stop the flow downstream, but since the creek was frozen, the pigments flowed under the ice.  
A coordinated effort between Union Pacific Railroad, Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Normal Fire Department officials resulted in all appropriate measures being taken to quickly identify the substance and ensure that it was non-hazardous. The Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District sampled and tested the water in Sugar Creek and confirmed that there are no hazards to life. The Environmental Protection Agency is working with officials and relayed no concerns for any environmental impacts.
Citizens will likely notice that the water, ice, and snow surrounding Sugar Creek looks discolored or has a reddish/orange coloring to it. The discoloration will dissipate, and there is no risk to life or the water supply. The ice and snow surrounding the creek may remain discolored until it has a chance to thaw.”

Additionally, NFD is urging residents to avoid the derailment site. “There are power lines down and portions of the train or track may be energized and poses a electrocution hazard. In addition is in unlawful to trespass on railroad property and may results in fines or arrest.”
Normal Mayor, Chris Koos, released a statement on social media to inform residents that Ameren has shut down power in a “large area around Uptown to make repairs…Uptown Station and Bone Student Center are open as warming centers for those affected.”

Fire Breaks Out At Train Derailment Site

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