GARDNER – Multiple fires broke out Thursday along the west side of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks between Gardner and Odell.
“Initially we were en route to a mutual aid call with Dwight to a car on fire on Interstate 55,” Gardner Fire Protection District Chief Terry Jenson said. “We were turned back and on the return to the station, we looked over and saw multiple ditch fires.”
Old Route 66 was shut down from Maher Road to Route 47 in Dwight as the Gardner fire department – with mutual aid from the Braidwood Fire Department, Coal City Fire Protection District and South Wilmington Fire Department – fought the brush fires for nearly an hour.
“We’re unsure what occurred to cause the fire,” Jenson said. “It looks like something was sprayed from the train and was ignited maybe by sparks, but we can’t tell at this time.”
Mark Davis, spokesman with Union Pacific for its Northern Region, said the incident was called into them about 3 p.m. and the railroad is investigating what trains were in the area and what may have happened.
Jensen said just prior to spotting the fires a train came to an abrupt stop in Gardner and made a squealing sound as it started to back up, causing those in the fire department to go outside and look, but he saw nothing coming from the train at that point.
Lt. Dustin Campbell with the Dwight Fire Protection District said a passer-by called in the fire along the tracks south of Dwight. The district responded at 2:26 p.m. and battled the fires until an all-clear was signaled at 3:32.
Campbell said the spot fires in the brush were similar to those in Gardner, occurring every so often with areas not burned in between.
He said a mutual aid call was sent to Odell but that fire department already was responding to fires along the tracks in that area.