Railroad bridge fire halts trains for hours

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The only railroad trestle trains can use to cross the Columbia River from Oregon to Washington was shut down for hours Tuesday after a fire erupted, likely caused by repair workers with torches.

Heavy smoke billowed from a fire on a railroad bridge along Marine Drive in Portland, February 26, 2019 (Courtesy to KOIN)

Heavy smoke billowed from a fire on the bridge along Marine Drive and North Portland Avenue Tuesday morning in an area where Portland Fire & Rescue said was difficult to access. The bridge is not far from the Portland Expo Center.

Crews in fireboats had the blaze under control and out before noon, about an hour after it was spotted. 

BNSF Railway, which owns the bridge, confirmed to KOIN 6 News this particular bridge is the only bridge between Oregon and Washington that trains can use to cross the Columbia River. The next closest bridge is in Wishram, Washington. 

A train at Union Station in downtown Portland, Feb. 26, 2019. (KOIN) 

That means all train traffic — including Amtrak and Union Pacific trains — could not go across.

Some passengers were stranded for up to 3.5 hours just miles away from Vancouver. Some said the experience would make them think twice about taking the train as a means of travel in the future. 

“I left Seattle at 10:30 this morning. Here I am, 8:42,” said one passenger named Nancy. “You know what, I will think twice the next time. Amtrak is not my friend.” 

Others thought officials could have done something to get passengers to their destinations. 

Heavy smoke billowed from a fire on a railroad bridge along Marine Drive in Portland, February 26, 2019 (KOIN)

“Once we made it to the bridge, I think they could have sent some buses for us,” said Tiffani Mireles. “But I think they had a lot on their plate.” 

A handful of passengers both stuck on trains and waiting for trains found their own transportation. 

Officials inspected the bridge and investigated its safety, then re-opened the bridge around 5:30 p.m.

No injuries were reported. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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