About 9:45 AM a major derailment occurred on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The accident happened directly inside the rail terminal located in Nubieber under the highway 299 bridge.
Several engines were seen off the track past the depot building and a few tank cars were seen resting near the depot. A box car had gone off the track and penetrated the wall of the Bieber Depot office building. At about 10 o'clock it was believed that one worker was trapped inside the railroad office building by a tank car and that there was a propane leak. It was later determined that no-one was inside the building.
Fire teams were made aware that a tank car which appeared to be damaged was loaded with un-odorized propane. Cargo manifests were immediatly available from railway conductors. Because the detection of un-odorized propane is difficult without special equipment, all emergancy personel and the general public were evacuated to a distance of about 1/2 mile from the incident. A decision was made to close the highway and to evacuate the town of Nubieber. Traffic was detoured via Lookout and 4 corners which caused a bit of inconvenience and confusion.
Local emergency responders did not have adequate instruments to detect dangerous gasses and a special Hazardous Materials evaluation team was called from Redding to evaluate the situation. Un odorized propane is explosive if leaking into he atmosphere, especially on a non windy day.
Emergency responders from as far away as Burney and Susanville arrived on scene. Ambulances were staged on both sides of the incident in case they were needed as there was still a danger of fire due to the hazardous material in the wreck.
Because of the uncertainty of how long Nubieber residents were to be evacuated, Red Cross in Susanville was put on standby for possible emergency shelter aid. The Bieber Memorial Hall was designated a shelter, but only a few people took advantage of this during the day.
The evacuation and road closure was in effect until the Hazardous Materials Team arrived a little before 5 PM. When they gave the all clear, the road was opened at about 5 PM and people were allowed to return to their homes.
BNSF crews worked all night to clear wreckage and rail traffic resumed early Friday morning. No one was injured in this incident
Following is more of an editorial than a news report.
Citizens of Big Valley should be concerned as this is the second major derailment in the area in the past couple of years and the track run by Burlington Northern through Lassen and Modoc Counties is known (by casual conversations with railroad workers and personal inspection during walks along the right of way) to be in very poor condition. In addition, the run in this area is in what is referred to as "dark territory", meaning that signals and switch information are manually operated rather than being electronically operated as most of the modern railway lines in the country are. Dark territory is highly prone to accidents like this.
Much hazardous material is hauled through this area and there is NO RAPID WARNING of locals in case of a derailment such as this. Despite what we will be told of how safe everything is and how the railroad is "following the rules" you can note that the accident first was reported on a CHP website at 9:44 AM and roads were not closed until after 10:15. The public was cleared from the bridge at 10:30. A simple system of a sirens in Nubieber could be installed if locals demanded it or complained. Imagine if a tank car containing chlorine gas (deadly and fast spreading) crashed and leaked. Is 1/2 or 1 hour delay in warning adequate? I think not!
I have been concerned with safety procedures followed by the railroad and talked to officials at Burlington Northern before, but no-one would talk except the Public Relations officer who ASSURED ME that everything was safe and told me that every train with hazardous material is preceded by careful track inspection etc. etc. It is obvious that everything is not safe and that evacuation plans are not adequate. Nothing can be determined by listening to Public Relations persons from BNSF as they are watching their bottom line and protecting themselves, not us!
This type of incident has happened before and it will happen again, we need to update our warning before someone gets killed. If you are concerned about this, call or email Big Valley News and let's start doing something about it. Nothing will happen unless we make loud noises!
11:53AM 1039 SUSANVILLE CHP
11:51AM 1039 MODOC SO
11:22AM 1039 CO RDS/WILL BE EXT WILL HAVE TO DETOUR AROUND TO THE EAST SIDE
11:20AM 604 * CP AT FIRE STATION ON WEST SIDE OF NUBIEBER
11:15AM CO RDS SUPV ETA IS 30 MIN
11:14AM CO RD SUPERVISOR IS ENRT /JEFF NEILSON CELL/310-2684
11:03AM 1039 LASSEN CO RDS,LEFT MESSAGE
11:01AM PLS ADVISE CO RDS
11:01AM NEED CO RDS SUPERVISOR TO 98 604 AT CP
10:59AM SO AND CO FIRE ARE HANDLING INCIDENT
10:59AM CO RDS / CT / 97
10:38AM 268 STEVE HESS ETA/20 MIN WILL MEET W/OFC JUST EAST OF THE BRIDGE/PER CT
10:36AM 1039 CT/260 CHRIS NAHAAS ENRT
10:30AM 1039 CT
10:29AM 604 * ON EAST SIDE OF BRIDGE IS THE COMMAND CENTER
10:28AM PER 604 / BRIDGE IS CLR OF PUBLIC NOW
10:25AM CO RDS WILL CLOSE KRAMER RD
10:25AM CT IS 97 / RDWYS CLOSED
10:19AM 1039 OES CONTROL #06-4134/CYBILL
10:16AM PUT OUT SIG ALERT/TRIGGERING SIGNS THAT 299 CLOSED AT BIEBER NO REROUTING
10:13AM 1039 LASSEN CO RDS FOR ROAD CLOSURE LN 43
10:12AM 1039 604
10:12AM ADVISE H16 THAT FUEL IS AVAILABLE AT BIEBER FIRE STATION
10:11AM 1039 H16
10:11AM NEED PUBLIC MOVED FROM BRIDGE THAT CONNECTS BIEBER AND NUBIEBER
10:10AM LOOKS LIKE SAND SPILLED
10:06AM PER LASSEN CO THERE ARE SEVERAL LOOKIE LOOS REQ ROAD CLOSURE ASAP
10:04AM 1039 CT
10:03AM 1039 SGT PETERSON WITH ASST COMMISSIONER AC FIELD
10:03AM THEY WILL NEED TO BLK OFF THE RD THAT GOES NORTH FROM NUBIEBER AT LEAST 1 MI
10:03AM NOTIFY LASSEN CO RD
10:03AM 1039 HEWAB
10:02AM THE STATION IS 500 FT FROM THE RDWY
10:00AM 1039 S5
9:59AM PER LASSEN ONE TRAPPED INSIDE THE BUILDING AND CONFIRMED PROPANE LEAK
9:58AM 1039 S3
9:55AM 1039 ENTAC / UPDATE RE ROAD CLOSURE
9:55AM 1039 S5
9:54AM 1039 CALTRANS FOR ROAD CLOSURE OF 299 ON E AND W SIDE
9:54AM 1039 ENTAC
9:52AM 1039 BURLINGTON RR
9:51AM H16 ENRT ETA 25 MIN
9:50AM H16 HAS 25 MIN ETA
9:48AM 1039 S5/37-C
9:45AM 1039 LASSEN SO
9:44AM 1039 SUSANVILLE FD
9:44AM 1039 ADIN AMBULANCE
RESPONDING OFFICERS STATUS
10:26AM CHP Unit On Scene
10:32AM CHP Unit On Scene
11:19AM CHP Unit Enroute
11:20AM CHP Unit On Scene
12:03PM CHP Unit Enroute