Union Pacific’s Fire Car Fleet Provided Critical Assist in Lava Fire
The first time a Union Pacific fire-fighting crew tried to reach the Dry Canyon Bridge in Northern California, they had to turn back. The risk of being trapped by the Lava Fire sweeping across the Shasta-Trinity National Forest was too high.
They tried again, less than four hours later.
With water tank cars from Union Pacific's Fire Car Fleet, the crew reached the bridge in the wee hours of the morning on June 29 – the day after 50 mph winds reignited the fire that has since consumed more than 25,000 acres and prompted an evacuation order for more than 8,000 people.
“We could see the bridge was on fire – smoke was all around it and there were small spot fires all over. At that point, we couldn't get close enough with the water tanks because the track was compromised,” said Jamie Hill, director-Bridge Maintenance, Engineering, in Roseville, California.
In the end, however, the employees who manned Union Pacific's water tank cars, which are outfitted with nozzles that can spray upwards of 75 feet, managed to save an estimated 20 miles of railroad infrastructure.
With the fire under control, Union Pacific has turned its attention to repairing the bridge and the nine miles of track damaged in the blaze.
Three large cranes weighing 200 to 600 tons are now on site near the steel-girded bridge that stands 150 feet tall and spans 1,200 feet across a scenic valley. Due to the fire, workers had to build a road into the site and construct pads for the cranes.
Current estimates have the bridge reopening by September 1.