Firefighters used back burns, controlled fires that eliminate fuel, to help contain a large fire that burned grass and brush near the railroad tracks at Elza Drive in east Oak Ridge on Friday afternoon.
The large grass fire was reported on the steep embankment along the railroad tracks east of Elza Gate Park at about 3:30 p.m. Friday. 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.
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.
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.
Firefighters used hand tools to help control the grass fire along the railroad tracks. They started the back burns to eliminate fuel in the path of the wildfire, the ORFD said.
“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 two railroad lines come together at a Y intersection. One line runs over Elza Drive and runs south along 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.
“CSX will further inspect the railroad bridge for safety,” the ORFD said. “The cause of the fire remains under investigation but is believed to be unintentional.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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