Smoke rises from the CN rail yard in Ferndale July 1 after a forklift caught on fire and two subsequent explosions occurred. No one was injured, according to the Ferndale Fire Department.

Smoke rises from the CN rail yard in Ferndale July 1 after a forklift caught on fire and two subsequent explosions occurred. No one was injured, according to the Ferndale Fire Department.

Photo by Brian Louwers


Fire causes 2 explosions at Ferndale rail yard

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published July 2, 2020

FERNDALE — A fire in the CN rail yard July 1 caused two explosions, according to the Ferndale Fire Department.

The Ferndale Fire Department was called to the rail yard, located near Eight Mile Road and the railroad tracks, at 9:59 a.m. July 1 for a report of a fire. Fire Chief Jack Pesha said they found a “gigantic forklift” that had caught on fire.

Both the Ferndale and Hazel Park fire departments responded to the scene. Once his crew got there, Pesha said, they started dousing the fire with water as two explosions occurred.

“One of (the explosions) was most likely pressure, like a tank that exploded,” he said. “The other was a (tractor) tire that was impinged by fire and that let loose. … There was direct fire contact on it.”

The explosions sent debris big and small flying in the yard, according to Pesha, including one big piece of quarter-inch steel plate that acted as a fender and weighed about 250 pounds.

“We found (the steel plate) about 100 feet away,” he said. “Some other things down there were nuts and bolts from the lug nuts, and two of the tires — they probably weigh about 500 pounds apiece — they ended up 20 feet away.”

After the explosion, firefighters had to regroup and find a water source, said Pesha. They located hydrants on the west side of the yard, hundreds of feet away from the fire.

“There were two different tracks. There were four train cars, so we had to go in between all these train cars to get to a hydrant that was about 400 feet away,” he said.

Once the fire trucks were running, firefighters were able to get the fire extinguished in about 30 minutes. The scene was settled at 10:45 a.m.

Pesha said firefighters were about 40 feet away from the fire when the explosions hit, and that nobody was hurt during the response.

The fire chief also said the department is leaving CN to investigate the official cause of the fire.

“The driver (of the forklift) thought it might’ve been a broken brake line, but we’re not 100% sure on that,” Pesha said. “It wasn’t suspicious or nothing, so we didn’t investigate it, but it was probably a failure of mechanical equipment, brake line or hydraulic line.”