Union Pacific apologizes for causing brush fires

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 7:47pm

Union Pacific Railroad Officials apologize for the causing 7 brush fires Monday.

One of their trains sparked several brush fires along the railroad tracks by Central El Paso.

In a statement released to Local 4 News, Elizabeth Hutchison for Union Pacific Corporate Communications said, "The train was stopped for an inspection, and a car with sticking brakes, which can cause sparks, was identified. The Mechanical team resolved the brake issue, conducted another inspection and then observed the train in motion to make sure the issue was remedied."

No injuries or damage was reported but it took a neighborhood to put out one of the fires off of Stevens street.

"We went out there yesterday and saw that there were flames so I told my mom to go get the key to the back door and that's when I got the water hose and started watering down the all the weeds and the fire," said one Central El Paso resident Erica Valdespino.

She and several other neighbors took buckets and hoses to put out one fire directly behind their homes.

Hutchison goes on to say in her statement, "We apologize for any resulting brush fires caused by the sticking brakes and remain committed to preventing such occurrences through thorough inspection processes."

Although these residents have seen brush fires in their area, some said this is the first they have heard of trains starting a fire.

"Because there is so much vegetation back here and much of it is dry we have seen fires back here but I have never seen like we saw yesterday just a long line of fires along the entire railroad tracks," said Director of the Child Crisis Center.

He goes on to say, because the winds were pretty strong that day, we feared for the residents on the other side of the tracks, but Erica said she's never felt threatened by the tracks nor by this recent incident.

"I have never felt endangered by the railroad track," she said. "We even have the railroad people honk their horn because its so much fun."

As for combating the fires, Fire Inspector Ruben Camacho said while no one was hurt in putting out that fire behind the homes, sometimes it's safer to just let the pros take care of it.

"Safety is number one, therefore call 911 and if you are in eminent danger, try to put it out yourself, but be careful about it. Be very, very careful and have us rolling," he said.

With the warming weather, the danger of small fires spreading grows, and Camacho says there are things you can do to prevent a wildfire. "Fires will spread really quickly, a lot faster than building fires," he said. "Clean up everything, get rid of dry rubbish, branches, clean your trees keep them pruned nicely and stick to the watering schedules."

Union Pacific officials also said if anyone identifies an emergency or concern near railroad tracks they should contact their Response Management Communication Center at 888-877-7267.


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