Overheated Train Axle Causes Grassfire in Howard County

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

HOWARD COUNTY - Fire crews in Howard County had their hands full with two big blazes.

4 fire departments along with the Texas Forest Service tackled the flames in the windy weather.

It didn't take much to spark those fires, it's all being blamed on sparks from a Union Pacific Train.

It took the Texas Forest Service and fire crews from Howard, Martin, and Glasscock Counties about an hour to contain two separate fires, but not before hundreds of acres were burned.

The first of the fires, called the Cauble fire, was responsible for about 150 acres going up in flames, and just down the road, the Train fire ate up 250 - 300 acres.

The cause of both of these fires, an axle on a Union Pacific rail car.

Union Pacific officials told NewsWest 9 that the center of an axle overheated, causing sparks of hot metal to shoot out, catching the dry grass on fire.

Texas Forest Service officials say the train tracks themselves helped keep the fire from spreading north, while they were able to fight the fire from the ground with bulldozers and from the air by using a helitanker.

"We were able to get dozer lines around both fires, so it's pretty much about 90% contained.  It took about an hour and 15-20 minutes of working on it.  They're still doing some line work," John Bear, with the Texas Forest Service, said.

Union Pacific crews worked to replace the wheels on the train about a mile down the tracks from the fire.  The train was out of service for a little over an hour.  Once the wheels were replaced, the train was back on it's way down the tracks.

There were no injuries or structure damages reported.   Texas Forest Service officials want to remaind everyone to be careful, especially since there is still high fire danger in the area heading into this weekend.