CSX said it held train traffic out of the area during a brush and grass fire near the railroad tracks in east Oak Ridge on Friday afternoon.
The large fire was reported at about 3:30 p.m. Friday along the railroad tracks south of Elza Drive, just east of Elza Gate Park. The fire burned grass on the side of a steep embankment supporting the railroad tracks that cross over Elza Drive. It also appeared to spread to nearby brush and grass near an unused rail line that splits off near the Clinch River to enter east Oak Ridge at Melton Lake Drive. The fire sent up a large plume of black and gray smoke that was visible for miles.
“Flames were moving quickly, fueled by strong winds and excess brush in the area,” the Oak Ridge Fire Department said.
CSX and the City of Oak Ridge said the cause of Friday’s fire remains under investigation. The Oak Ridge Fire Department said it believes the fire was unintentional.
“CSX was notified of a brush fire close to our property near Elza Drive in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, last Friday afternoon,” the company said in a statement Monday. “We appreciate the swift response of the Oak Ridge Fire Department. Safety is CSX’s highest priority, and we worked in close coordination with the first responders to hold train traffic out of the area to allow for a safe response.”
Mike Marsh, business owner at the nearby M&W Auto Repair on Elza Drive, said it appeared that there could have been a loose wheel or bad bearing on some train equipment, causing shooting sparks around the time of the fire. Several other people saw it also, Marsh said.
When crews first arrived, an Oak Ridge Fire Department engine drove down an access road along the railroad tracks and used a sprayer mounted on top of the truck to initially spray water on the fire. A tanker from the Marlow Volunteer Fire Department helped ferry water from a nearby fire hydrant in Anderson County.
Crews started attacking the fire from several locations, the ORFD said. When flames spread to the railroad bridge over Elza Drive, firefighters were able to save it by walking out onto the bridge and extinguishing the flames.
Firefighters used hand tools to help control the grass fire along the railroad tracks. They started back burns, which are controlled fires to eliminate fire fuel.
“Crews were able to keep the fire contained, ensuring nearby homes and businesses were safe,” the ORFD said. Part of Elza Drive was closed while emergency crews responded.
Crews cleared the scene shortly after 8 p.m. but continued to monitor for hot spots, the ORFD said.
The fire was in an area where the two railroad lines come together at a Y intersection just north of the Clinch River. One line runs north over Elza Drive and runs south along the east side of Melton Hill Lake in east Oak Ridge past Bull Run Fossil Plant. The other line has been partially removed, and it used to run over Melton Lake Drive through east Oak Ridge near Warehouse Road, past Jefferson Middle School, and to the Y-12 National Security Complex.
Mutual aid was provided at Friday’s fire by the Oliver Springs Fire Department and Marlow Volunteer Fire Department. Other agencies that responded included the Tennessee Division of Forestry, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and CSX. The Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and Oak Ridge Police Department responded as well, providing traffic control near the fire.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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