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Front Page » June 17, 2014 » Carbon County News » Fire fighters scramble as 7 fires ignite beside UP railro...
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Fire fighters scramble as 7 fires ignite beside UP railroad tracks

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By C.J. McMANUS Sun Advocate associate editor

Officials from the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands are investigating a June 13 incident that saw seven fires roar into life one right after another in Carbon County.

According to Jason Curry, spokesperson for the division, the first fire started in Wellington around 4:30 p.m. when sparks reportedly being thrown from a freight train ignited a small wooden structure just feet from the rail road tracks.

As Wellington fire fighters were called to the blaze, a second fire sprang to life only moments later on U.S. Highway 6, near the Old Wellington Road junction. Price Fire responded, and as the train proceeded along the Union Pacific's Carbon County line, brush fire after brush fire ignited in the gully which borders the train tracks.

It was initially reported that there were as many as 11 total fires burning at once in Carbon County, with seven blazing in Price. According to Curry, however, there were seven fires total.

Dry conditions and moderate winds kept the embers burning as firefighters from Wellington, Price and Helper worked non-stop to keep the small ignitions from reaching significant fuel sources or structures.

According to Price City Fire Chief Paul Bedont, from the onset of Friday's fires, it was apparent that a train was causing the issue.

"A train could have lost a bearing, right now we just don't know," the chief said on Friday. "But I'm fairly certain a train did cause these fires. Every one has started just off the side of the tracks."

While Bedont wondered about bearing problems on Friday, by Monday he was leaning to a problem with the train's brakes.

According to the Price Fire Chief, if sparks were indeed being thrown from the train, a problem with the locomotive's brakes could be likely. He stated that a massive amount of heat can be created very quickly and can begin to spark in only minutes.

Bedont continued to explain that most trains coming into Wellington begin stopping at Farnum. This gives the heavy and fast moving vehicles enough time to slow to a proper speed before reaching the town of Wellington.

"There's a chance that brake problems are the culprit here, but we just won't know until the investigators finish their work," said Bedont.

In Price, the fire which provided the most danger was a blaze started on Nick Lane. According to Bedont, several power poles ignited there, putting multiple structure in danger of catching fire.

The sites of the fires caused major traffic issues as thick smoked barreled across U.S. Highway 6 from Wellington to Carbonville.

Public Safety crews including the Carbon County Sheriff's Office, Price City Police, Helper Police and the Wellington Police department ensured the safety of motorists as fire fighters attacked the spreading flames.

According to Curry, the last fire started by the possibly malfunctioning train occurred near Grogg's Pinnacle Brewing Company.

The train conductor was notified of the issues with his equipment and stopped in Helper.

As soon as the train was stopped, the fires ceased.

"Currently, we are in the middle of our investigation," said Curry on Monday. "There is still a great deal of information we need to gather, including evidence and witness interviews."

The Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesperson reported that a finding should be ready in the next week.

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