Arizona Members Respond to Hazardous Train Derailment and Fire

July 30 • 2020

Nearly 100 fire fighters from Phoenix Local 493, Mesa Local 2260 and Scottsdale Local 5050, along with mutual aid from the surrounding area, were dispatched to the scene of a train derailment on a bridge crossing Tempe Town Lake, a popular recreational area located in the City of Tempe.  

The train was transporting several tanker cars, some containing hazardous substances, to Tuscon when as many as 10 cars derailed early July 29. Thus far, one fire fighter has been transported to the hospital for heat exhaustion as temperatures rose to a high of 111 degrees. 

“In this difficult situation. Our members have been doing a great job keeping everyone safe,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “I am very proud of the professionalism and dedication to duty our members are displaying as they respond to this dangerous incident.” 
“Our members are exercising extreme caution as they work to put out several hot spots on the train,” says 10th District Vice President Frank Lima. “I know our members are doing everything to keep the area secure for the public they serve.” 
When crews arrived shortly after 6:00 a.m., several tankers were off the tracks, a portion of the bridge was collapsed and there was heavy fire. While it has been reported that the cars on fire were carrying lumber and not the flammable materials, the situation was still considered very dangerous.

Even the elevated water streams could not reach the fire on the bridge. Crews had to put in a special request to use Peoria Fire’s boat, which was granted.  

“The location of the accident and nature of some of the materials being carried certainly do make securing the the scene difficult,” says Local 493 President Don Jongewaard. “My members on the ground tell me all crews reacted and handled the situation exactly as they should. They are all to be commended for a job well done.” 

No word yet on how long the emergency response, which includes fire, HazMat and water operations, will be needed until the area is considered safe. 

The cause of the accident and bridge collapse is still unknown. Media reports indicate the bridge had its last inspection on July 9.