Freight Train Derailment and Fire Near Arizona-New Mexico Border Forces Closure of Interstate 40

A BNSF freight train derailed and caught fire near the Arizona-New Mexico border, forcing the closure of Interstate 40 and nearby evacuations. Hazmat teams are on the scene, and the cause of the incident is under investigation.

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Nitish Verma
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BNSF Freight Train Derails and Catches Fire in Arizona, Forcing Evacuations and Highway Closure

BNSF Freight Train Derails and Catches Fire in Arizona, Forcing Evacuations and Highway Closure

On Friday, April 26, 2024, a BNSF freight train derailed and caught fire near Lupton, Arizona, approximately 22 miles southwest of Gallup, New Mexico. The incident forced the closure of Interstate 40 and the evacuation of nearby residences as a precaution.

The derailment occurred around 11:45 a.m. near the Arizona-New Mexico state line. Up to 35 rail cars were involved, with a half-dozen cars catching fire and burning for hours. The train was transporting non-odorous propane and gasoline at the time of the incident. "BNSF personnel are responding to assess the affected area, but the estimated time for reopening the main track has not been determined yet," BNSF Railway stated.

Authorities shut down Interstate 40 in both directions, with westbound traffic diverted at mile marker 16 in New Mexico and eastbound traffic diverted at mile marker 333 in Arizona. The closure led to a traffic backup of more than 10 miles. Evacuations were issued for residences within a 2-mile radius of the derailment site.

Hazmat teams are on the scene, and firefighters are not actively trying to extinguish the flames to safely mitigate the situation. The interstate is expected to remain closed indefinitely until the fire is extinguished and safety concerns are resolved. No injuries have been reported so far.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation by BNSF Railway. The Arizona Corporation Commission, which oversees railroad safety, plans to send an inspector to the site, although the derailment occurred on the New Mexico side of the tracks. The incident also impacted Amtrak passenger travel, with some routes between Los Angeles and Albuquerque, New Mexico being canceled.

Why this matters: The derailment and fire have disrupted a major transportation corridor, affecting both freight and passenger travel. The incident highlights the ongoing safety concerns surrounding the transportation of hazardous materials by rail and the potential risks to nearby communities.

As emergency crews work to contain the fire and assess the damage, the closure of Interstate 40 is expected to cause significant traffic delays and economic disruption in the region. BNSF Railway and local authorities are working to determine the cause of the derailment and implement measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Key Takeaways

  • BNSF freight train derailed and caught fire near Lupton, AZ on April 26, 2024.
  • Up to 35 rail cars involved, with 6 cars on fire for hours; no injuries reported.
  • Interstate 40 closed in both directions, leading to 10-mile traffic backups.
  • Nearby residences evacuated within 2-mile radius as a precaution.
  • Derailment disrupted freight and passenger travel, highlighting hazmat transportation risks.