BNSF personnell and the Grant County Sheriff’s Office hazmat team were two of the first responders to the spill. The Dubuque Fire Department was reported to have sent its foam truck to the scene.
The Jo Davis County Sheriff’s Department reported several cars were on fire. The train reportedly had 103 cars filled with crude oil and two “buffer cars” filled with sand. Five of the crude-oil cars were reported to have derailed and caught fire, with massive, black smoke and 200 to 300-foot-high flames visible on the horizon from considerable distances.
The Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board was notified by BNSF, a Warren Buffett Berkshire Hathaway Inc company.
Recent NPR reports and other environmental experts have been focusing on the dangers of crude oil transportation through heavily-populated areas, with more and more oil coming from the Dakotas and Canada by rail. This oil is very volatile and gaseous in its pre-refinery condition.
This spill/fire is in a isolated rural area right next to the waterway, and the conditions of the train tracks along the Mississippi have been a concern for some time with various environmental groups, such as the Quad-Cities Waterkeepers.
On June 19, 2009, 12 tank cars of the Chicago, Central & Pacific Railroad (CCP) carrying ethanol caught fire and burned at the Mulford Road crossing in Rockford. Heavy rains destabilized a railroad crossing next to the Kishwaukee River, causing the derailment, fire and ethanol spill.
The Kishwaukee is one only four “Class A” rivers in Illinois and a tributary to the Rock River, now a National Water Trail. The ethanol, recent farm fertilization, and local sewer problems, combined in a toxic mass flowing down the Rock River and resulted in the largest fish kill in the history of Illinois.
The dead fish were so deep at the Quad Cities dams you could walk across the river on them, according to residents at the confluence of the Rock River and the Mississippi.