Sparks from Train Start Fire Next to Railroad Tracks, Homes

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It was a mile-long fire, running alongside a Union Pacific railroad track and running a stone’s throw from dozens if homes.

“Lord, you know what’s going on. If you’ve got another place for me, take it,” said Robin Gibson, who owns a home along the track.

Gibson was a part of Penryn’s volunteer fire department for more than two decades. So even though the flames were creeping toward his home, he remained confident in the fire fighters and his own precautions.

“Everybody’s pretty well irrigated. I have my own personal pump down here I can throw in a ditch,” he said.

Officially, the cause of the fire is still under investigation. But first indications are a train malfunction may have sparked multiple blazes.

If it was a malfunction, the train was throwing sparks off on one side only. Twelve separate fires were reported on the south side of the track, none on the north.

Because of that length-wise orientation of the fire, CalFire immediately brought out lots of assets and tactics to tackle it. Air support, dozers, and back-burns were all in use.

The rail itself wasn’t.

“Whenever we have an incident along railroad tracks, we call up Union Pacific and request that they stop all railroad traffic in the area until our crews are safe and out if the way,” said CalFire Battalion Chief Erich Schwab.

Schwab said that the line would likely remained closed through the evening.

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