North Vancouver fire crews have had a busy 12-hour stretch at the train tracks after responding to two rail car fires that sent smoke billowing throughout the Pemberton neighbourhood last night and this morning.
Firefighters responded to a call at the 2100 block of McKeen Avenue just before 10 p.m. Friday night for reports that a rail car that was transporting wood pellets was on fire.
Around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, crews were called back to the industrial area after a 911-caller reported lots of smoke in the area. When crews got there, another rail car with wood pellets on board was on fire.
Firefighters isolated the area of track where the rail car fires were reported, which were located around McKeen and Philip avenues, and in both instances climbed on top of the rail cars to douse the flames, according to David Dales, assistant chief of operations for District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.
“It potentially could have been smoldering for days,” said Dales.
During both calls on Friday and Saturday, fire crews unloaded the contents of each rail car to make sure the wood pellets were properly extinguished, said Dales.
“In all honesty, it probably ignited when we had that very hot temperature a week or so ago. These cars are filled with wood pellets and every once in a while they can spontaneously combust if everything’s perfect – there’s some wood decaying, you get a high temperature, and it’s in an enclosed space,” he said.
While noting rail cars transporting wood products do occasionally experience fires, Dales said this kind of callout was uncommon.