Construction fire at Snyder St. railroad underpass quickly extinguished

NEMiss.News Snyder St. railroad underpass



While using an acetylene torch to cut through a steel I-beam, a railroad construction worker accidentally set fire to a creosote timber this afternoon, February 14, 2022.

NEMiss.News Oxyacetylene torch at Snyder St.

The oxyacetylene torch unit that set off the fire. Oxyacetylene burns at temperatures above 6,000 degrees F.

Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) is re-placing old wooden pylons and beams at the Snyder St. railroad underpass in New Albany with steel. The foot-wide I-beams have been driven into the earth by a big impact hammer mounted on a crane. Shortly before 1 p.m. Monday, February 14, a workman was cutting one of the I-beams with an acetylene torch, which started a fire in one of the decades-old timbers.

BNSF workmen nearly succeeded in putting out the fire with a fire extinguisher, but “ran out of water.” Fortunately, a unit of the New Albany Fire Department (NAFD) arrived within a minute or so of receiving the 911call and finished putting out the still smoldering fire.

There were no reported injuries to construction workers or firemen.

NAFD Fire Chief Mark Whiteside said the quick work by BNSF personnel and quick follow-up by the fire department avoided what could have been major damage to the underpass and even to nearby buildings.

NEMiss.News New I-Beams at Snyder St. railroad bridge

Close up of new I-beam support pylons at the underpass.

Ordinary railroad ties and many other railroad structures are made of pine or fir, which has been infused under pressure with creosote. Creosote is used to prevent insect and other damage to the wood. It is a highly flammable material distilled from coal tar and plant sources. It can burn at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt steel.

Work on the old overpass bridge is expected to continue for two weeks or more. There was no indication that the small fire Monday would delay finishing the work.

More about the bridge project:

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