Just after 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe locomotive caught fire just outside Alberton, causing the freight train to be delayed for several hours.

Montana Rail Link spokesman Jim Lewis said the crew reported the fire at about 5:30 p.m. and they pulled the train onto a siding near Alberton. They attempted to put the fire out themselves, but were unsuccessful, so they contacted the local fire department for help.

Mel Holtz, spokesman for the Frenchtown Fire Department said the fire was a real challenge to fight.

"We really had our hands full there, we had one of three locomotives on fire, and it happened to be the middle one," Holtz said. "This was particularly tricky because this was a diesel electric locomotive, so we weren't able to spray water on it right away. We had to go through a shutdown procedure, and it was difficult to shut down that middle locomotive. After the pump and all the electricity were shut off to it, the fire died down and we were able to get in there with water."

Holtz said the incident occurred just off of Plateau Road, approximately five miles west of Alberton.

"They were hauling a freight train headed east," he said. "The crew was able to disconnect from the train prior to our arrival, and pull it safely away, so the fire was confined to the engine. We were able to keep the fire from spreading to nearby vegetation so it didn't start a wildland fire, for which we're all very thankful."

Holtz said several Montana Rail Link officials arrived at the scene to handle the situation.

"My understanding is that they were able to get that off to a siding or get that back to town safely," he said. "We did have both directions shut down last night while were were working on that, but to my knowledge, they were able to open it up last night."

Lewis said due to the fire, four trains were delayed, and by 10:00 p.m. all the trains were able to be on their way. He said no one was injured in the fire, and the locomotive will be inspected and repaired by Burlington Northern Santa Fe officials.


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