Firefighting

Firefighters Likely to Remain at Sherwood (OR) Railroad Trestle Fire for Days

Firefighters expect to remain at a Sherwood grass fire that spread to a railroad trestle for several days while they continue to put out hot spots and watch for flare ups, reports oregonlive.com.

The 85-year-old Portland & Western trestle caught fire late Monday afternoon and is still smoldering, said Cassandra Ulven, a Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue spokeswoman. About 80 percent of the trestle collapsed.

A private excavator, contracted to help with the fire, has started to tear down the remainder of the trestle, so firefighters can more easily reach hot spots, Ulven said. 

The fire was first reported about 4:20 p.m. Monday. Initially, firefighters believed the blaze started on the 600-foot long, 50-foot high trestle then spread to grass below.

But a fire investigator, who has been conducting interviews with witnesses, determined the opposite likely occurred. An employee at a nearby business took a photograph of the fire before crews arrived. The photo indicates that the fire  started in the brush below the trestle, then spread to the railroad structure, Ulven said.

The investigation into the fire’s cause is expected to last several days. 

Portland & Western released a statement Tuesday morning that said no employees were working near the bridge at the time of the fire. Railroad business will not be affected because of the collapsed trestle, and it has not yet been determined whether the trestle will be rebuilt, the statement said.

The trestle was used to access stored railcars, and a train last traveled along it sometime last week, said Michael Williams, a Portland & Western spokesman. The railroad described the trestle as infrequently used. 

The second-alarm, 8-acre fire brought about 50 firefighters to the scene, near Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood Road and Langer Farms Parkway, on Monday. Four businesses to the east were evacuated. Officials said their goal was to protect the homes in a neighborhood to the south.

The trestle began to partially collapse around 6 p.m. Monday. Firefighters withdrew from the collapse area and set up a staging area near Northstar Chemical, a chemical distribution company at 14200 S.W. Tualatin-Sherwood Road.

By Tuesday morning, staffing levels had dropped to 16 firefighters, Ulven said.

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