Officials: Sparks from train set off field fire

By Kelly Ducote, The Observer August 30, 2013 11:36 am

Fire crews work to douse a blaze Wednesday near the railroad tracks at Booth Lane and Highway 82. Sparks from a train are believed to be the cause behind the fire. (Courtesy photo)
Fire crews work to douse a blaze Wednesday near the railroad tracks at Booth Lane and Highway 82. Sparks from a train are believed to be the cause behind the fire. (Courtesy photo)

Sparks from a locomotive are believed to be the cause of a field fire Wednesday.

Multiple agencies responded to a stubble field fire just before 6 p.m. Wednesday that was started near the railroad tracks at Booth Lane and Highway 82.

La Grande Rural Fire Chief Larry Wooldridge said after walking the scene Thursday, the total acreage burned was 30.35 acres.

“The wind was coming straight out of the north, which was where it started at the north end of the field,” Wooldridge said.

Dense smoke in the area was a result of mint resident in the field.

About 30 firefighters worked the scene. La Grande Rural, the City of La Grande, Cove, Imbler and North Powder fire departments responded. Wooldridge said firefighters were at the scene for about nine hours.

The northern wind caused the fire to jump Booth Lane and burn about four acres on the south side of Booth before it was controlled.

 “Crop Production Services had some buildings and a large stack of hay that was threatened,” Wooldridge said. No damage was reported.

Neil Cox, vice president and general manager of Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad, said the engineer stopped the train when he realized it was sparking.

“Our locomotive that we were using (Wednesday), after we picked up six loads of grain from Alicel, got a little heated coming up the short hill,” Cox said. “We lost the number two cooling fan, which caused it to heat up more than usual and caused sparks to come off the tracks.”

Idaho Northern Railroad runs track between La Grande and Elgin.

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Kelly on Twitter @lgoDucote.