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Fire destroys part of train trestle

Officials say incident will hamper passenger and freight traffic in the Sacramento area.

March 16, 2007|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

A quarter-mile stretch of a wooden train trestle on a heavily used rail line in Sacramento was destroyed by fire late Thursday afternoon, an incident that officials said would hamper passenger and freight traffic in the area for an undetermined period.

The fire was reported about 5:40 p.m. just northeast of downtown near the state fairgrounds, and it backed up rush-hour traffic as motorists watched thick smoke billow thousands of feet into the sky.

Within a few hours, two or three sections of the trestle had collapsed. "This whole bridge is total loss," said Capt. Jim Doucette of the Sacramento Fire Department.

Cliff Cole, an Amtrak spokesman, said passengers would be transferred to buses for an indefinite period to route them around the affected area. Amtrak, he said, runs two round-trip services -- the Capitol Corridor and the California Zephyr -- through the area every day. Late Thursday, Cole said, Amtrak stopped a westbound Zephyr train in Roseville and put its 130 passengers on a bus to continue their trip toward the Bay Area. Union Pacific also uses the line, but the company could not be reached for comment.

More than 100 firefighters battled the blaze, and crews will continue to be at the site for at least "a couple" more days, Doucette said. "It's going to be smoldering for a long time."

Fire officials said they had not determined how the blaze started. The trestle keeps trains elevated above a wetlands area in the American River Parkway.

"The plume was huge," said Mark Dinger, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation. Dinger said that when the fire was at full force, he viewed it from about 15 miles away. "It definitely dominated the Sacramento skyline," he said.

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stuart.silverstein@latimes.com

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