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Friday, September 16, 2011

Amarillo rail tank fire!

Video and story courtesy KVII.

FIRST ONLINE by Pronews 7

A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for parts of downtown Amarillo after a fire near the railroad tracks.

Thick black smoke and fire was seen billowing from the area near the 1500 block of S. Johnson just before 11:30 am on Friday.

Captain Wesley Hall with the Amarillo Fire Department told Pronews 7 that the fire was in the rail yard, but he was unsure of what exactly was on fire when we spoke with him.

A Pronews 7 photographer on the scene heard Amarillo police announce evacuations because it was a hazmat fire.

Scanner traffic indicated that there were multiple hazardous materials in the train on track 13 that was on fire, but that has not been confirmed.

Amarillo police announced evacuations for the 1 block radius and some area beyond the 1500 block of south Johnson area, along with a 1/2 mile evacuation area that is downwind from the fire.

Scanner traffic indicated that those within a 1/4 mile radius should shelter in place.

Main streets were also blocked off by emergency responders until the fire can be contained.

Update 3:30p
Three Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad employees remain in a local hospital for evaluation after a hazardous materials fire that prompted evacuations near downtown Amarillo Friday afternoon.

BNSF Spokesperson Joe Fraust tells Pronews 7 the employees are being evaluated because of the rail car fire that contained iso-pentane, a liquid petroleum that is highly flamable. One has already been released.

Approximately 200 residents were evacuated, 80 structures in total.

"Police came down the street with their loudspeakers on," said evacuated resident Matt McIlory. "We left and went to a friend's house."

The evacuation order was lifted at 2:30 but the BNSF rail yard remains closed. Hazmat crews continue to work on the clean up. Fraust said the team will be on hand for a while.

Additionally, train traffic in the area has been halted until the clean up is completed.

Update 2:35p
Pronews 7 has confirmed the evacuation order has been lifted. Residents are being allowed back to their homes. Amarillo Fire Department Hazmat teams have determined there is no further risk to the area. At the BNSF railyard, a controlled access remains in effect.

Update 2:20p 
Buchanan Street is now closed due to the fire. I-40 traffic is being re-routed to Loop 335.

The evacuation order is still in place, police said.

Those outside the evacuation area but within the area of I-40 between Polk and Ross and SE 10th between Polk and Ross, you are asked to turn off heaters and air conditioners and remain in your residence and home.

The National Weather Service is reporting a possibility of increased wind speeds this afternoon.

Update 2:00p
Maverick Boy's and Girl's Club has canceled its after school program. Its facilities have been evacuated and won't be able to pick up kids from school.

Update 1:30p
An evacuation continues for those who live in a one-fourth mile radius of SE 17th Street and Johnson Streets. That includes residence/businesses between Canyon Drive (Interstate 27) and Garfield Street from Interstate 40 North to 10th Street.

People who live one-fourth mile to the north of the fire are asked to shelter in place.

Amarillo Police Department says the cause of the fire is unknown at this time and Amarillo Fire Department and BNSF hazmat teams are on site.

Interstate 40 remains opened but Interstate 40 to downtown is closed.

Update 12:43p
No schools are being evacuated because of the rail car fire, Holly Shelton, spokesperson for AISD said. The District is askign parents to NOT attempt to pick up their children. Students are safe. Glenwood, Sanbord and Landergin Elementary are sheltering-in-place due to the fire.

Update 12:30p
Captain Wes Hall of the Amarillo Fire Department tells Pronews 7 that residents are being asked to "shelter in place." That means residents within one mile down wind of the fire are asked to stay in place, close all windows and doors, turn off air conditioners and wait it out.

Officials are unsure of exactly what's burning but it is believed that hazardous materials are burning.

The fire is nearly out which gives hazmat crews the opportunity to investigate and determine the specific hazmat.

LINK TO SCANNER AURIO HERE! - Courtesy Webbfeat Productions.

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