Canyon Paddling Hazard: Fire Train

Paddlers on the Colorado River’s Ruby-Horsethief Canyon outside Grand Junction, Colorado, got a hot surprise in early July when, while floating the river, they were passed by a train…on fire.

No, it wasn’t a Grateful Dead/Casey Jones lyric-come-to-life. It was a Union Pacific train engine that caught fire as it passed the floaters while speeding along the tracks beside the river. No injuries were reported, and the train was able to continue down the line before engineers eventually extinguished it, but it raised a red flag with Colorado fire danger rated high. (BLM rangers and firespotters in a plane scouted the tracks afterward for any signs of a fire.)

According to the Grand Junction Sentinel, the Union Pacific train engine experienced mechanical problems, which caused the fire as the train sped through Rabbit Valley about two miles from of the Colorado-Utah border on the afternoon of July 8. Before fire crews could get in place to combat the fire from the river, engineers on the train were able to put the blaze out.

A spokesperson for Grand Junction’s Colorado Canyons Association, which posted a private paddler’s video of the flaming train, said this was the first time they have heard of anything like it along the 27-mile-long section of river popular for rafters and canoeists.

“A flaming train rolling through the Ruby-Horsethief corridor is definitely not something we’ve seen before,” said Kate Graham, Assistant Director of the Colorado Canyons Association. “And while avoidable fires are always a concern in the National Conservation Area — for example we’re still seeing the impacts of the Dog Island fire from a few years back — we know and trust that Union Pacific swiftly and quickly handled the problem.”

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The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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