Local schools were evacuated and photos from the scene showed plume of smoke rising above the trees. A total of eight cars of the Union Pacific train filled with fuel had derailed and only had caught fire, a Oregon Department of Forestry spokesperson told KATU News. State officials said a portion of the interstate highway had been closed.
Energy companies have come to rely on the country’s railroad network to transport crude oil in response to the fracking boom of the last decade. The oil exploration method allows oil engineers to dig up oil in locations that would have been unthinkable just years ago, and oil trains are the most efficient way to get natural resources from the field to the refinery.
Activists say these trains pose a risk to the millions who live along the tracks where crude oil trains travel. Train tracks and tanker cars weren’t built to accommodate trains carrying loads of heavy crude oil, making the trains more likely to derail. The deadliest incident killed 47 people in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in 2013.
“History has repeatedly shown just how deadly and dangerous oil train crashes can be,” Sierra Club campaigner Lena Moffitt said Friday. “Simply put, transporting oil by rail—or by any method—is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Union Pacific did not immediately return a request for comment.