Burlington Northern Santa Fe plans to establish a claims center in Galena to "help and assist local residents who may have incurred damage to their property or are in need of temporary relocation," according to a press release.

The railroad also is taking "precautionary measures" to protect the nearby waterways, which are the Galena and Mississippi rivers. It also plans to conduct air-quality monitoring.


GALENA, Ill. — At least eight railcars derailed this afternoon south of Galena, sparking a massive fire and smoke that can be seen for miles.

A press release from the Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department sent just after 6 p.m. said the sheriff's department was in the process of evacuating homes within one mile of the derailment site.

Galena Assistant Fire Chief Bob Conley said fire crews responded to reports of a derailment three miles south of the city at about 1:50 p.m. He said because of the intensity of the fire, they are allowing it to burn itself out.

The railroad company, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, said in an email statement that the derailment occurred at about 1:20 p.m. near where the Galena River meets the Mississippi River.  

BNSF said the train has 105 cars, 103 of which were carrying crude oil. The other two cars were buffer cars loaded with sand. A release from the Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department confirmed it was Bakken crude oil.

“The report that came back to me from them is that eight tanker cars had left the track,” Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said. “Two of those were still upright. The other six were not. They observed at least one of those tankers smoking.”

Conley said firefighters had to access the derailment site via a city bike trail. He said two cars were smoking when they arrived on scene and they attempted to fight a small fire among the cars but were unable to stop the flames.

“We couldn’t access the seat of the fire, and it grew,” Conley said.

Firefighters had to pull back from the scene for safety reasons at about 3:20 p.m., according to Conley.

Fire department Capt. Brett Temperly said crews had to evacuate quickly and left a substantial amount of equipment behind.

“We left about $10,000 worth of equipment behind,” he said. “We can replace equipment, not manpower.”

The wreck site is a fairly isolated location, according to Conley. Early reports from firefighters indicated no evacuations of residents were necessary, but law enforcement started evacuating inside the 1-mile radius later in the day.

No injuries have been reported, Moran said.

“I did confirm that the train crew was safely removed from the scene without injury,” he said.

It’s still unclear what caused the derailment, according to a BNSF statement.

In a statement, the Federal Railroad Administration said it had investigators headed to the derailment site and that the agency will conduct a "thorough investigation," to determine the cause.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner also put state personnel and equipment at the ready for deployment.

"I activated the State Incident Response Center to ensure we're ready to act quickly if any local responders need our assistance," Rauner said, adding he has sent staff from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to the scene.

Multiple Illinois emergency response agencies were called to the derailment, including fire departments from Galena, East Dubuque and Menominee-Dunleith. Grant County and Lafayette County, Wis., hazardous material responders assisted the Jo Daviess County team, according to Steve Braun, Grant County emergency management director. The units came from Cuba City, Darlington, Dickeyville, Lancaster and Platteville. They were summoned shortly after 2 p.m. and released around 5 p.m. Braun reported seeing smoke from as far away as Platteville.


GALENA, Ill. -- A firefighter near the scene of a derailed BNSF Railway train in rural Jo Daviess County said crude oil is burning after the wreck.

No injuries have been reported.

Multiple Illinois agencies have responded to the derailment, including fire departments from Galena, East Dubuque and Menominee-Dunleith. Grant County, Wis., hazardous material responders are on scene, as are firefighters from Dubuque.

The train derailed south of Galena at approximately 1:20 p.m., according to a statement from BSNF.

BNSF said the train has 105 cars, 103 of which were carrying crude oil. It's unclear how many cars have derailed.

BNSF has not confirmed that the derailed cars are leaking. However, a firefighter responding to the scene said crude oil has caught fire. Smoke could be seen rising the scene.

Jo Daviees County Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Moser says several cars have caught fire as a result of the derailment. However, the blaze hasn't prompted any evacuations, although that may change.

BNSF officials say railroad representatives are headed to the scene of the derailment. The railroad is working with local responders and has notified the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Railroad Administration, according to the statement.

Dubuque Fire Chief Rick Steines said he has deployed firefighters with foam fire suppression equipment to a derailment staging area.

"We sent two people with our foam trailer because of a request we got form Jo Daviess County," he said.

Steines said he didn't know any specific details about the wreck.

Attempts to reach the Galena Fire Department have been unsuccessful. The BNSF statement said no additional details are available.


The Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department is responding to a reported train derailment near the ferry landing in the Galena area.

The preliminary information from authorities is that five railcars are involved.

More information will be available soon.

TH Media is sending staff to the scene.

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