Deadly truck crash causes smoky Portland railroad yard fire

Black smoke billows over the Willamette River in Portland, Or., near the St. Johns Bridge following a railcar fire on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015. A semitrailer truck crashed on a roadway near a Portland railroad yard, sparking the railcar fire that sent up plumes of black smoke that were visible for miles. Nearby businesses were evacuated, the highway was closed and a half-marathon race in the area was canceled as crews responded to the blaze. Portland police say the truck driver was killed. (Stephanie Yao Long/The Oregonian via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A semitrailer truck hauling fuel crashed on a roadway near a Portland railroad yard on Sunday, sparking a rail-car fire that sent up plumes of black smoke visible for miles.

The truck driver was killed, and authorities continued to investigate the cause of the crash, Portland police said

It took firefighters several hours to extinguish the blaze, which began shortly before 9 a.m. in an industrial area along U.S. 30. It burned just south of the iconic St. Johns Bridge over the Willamette River.

Nearby businesses were evacuated, the highway was closed and a half-marathon race in the area was canceled as crews responded to the blaze.

Dozens of firefighters rushed to the scene from around Portland and nearby Vancouver, Washington.

When truck crashed, the unknown fuel it was carrying leaked underneath railroad tanker cars parked on the tracks, which run parallel to the highway, said Terry Foster, a spokesman for Portland Fire & Rescue.

The fuel ignited, burning eight rail cars, but none of the liquid asphalt they contained leaked out, Foster said. “The semi truck appeared to have gone off the road and crashed into the parked rail cars,” he said.

The affected rail line is owned by Portland & Western Railroad, which operates a number of short-line railways in Oregon. The BNSF main line, which carries 30 passenger and freight trains a day nearby, was not impacted, BNSF spokesman Gus Melanos said.

Neighbor Josh Golden said he was awakened by sirens. When they continued coming, he went outside and saw large plumes of black smoke.

“You could see them just billowing up before the bridge,” Golden said.

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