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Locomotive Spills Fuel Near Sawmill

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A thousand gallons of diesel fuel leaked from a freight train moving along the railroad tracks east of Sonora Monday morning.

Authorities say the eastbound Sierra Northern Railroad train – which consisted of one locomotive and 11 empty freight cars – had just pulled into the Sierra Pacific Industries sawmill complex in Standard near the hockey rink at Camage Avenue.

Tuolumne County Fire Marshall Kari Hubbard said the train crew noticed a strong fuel smell upon arrival at the mill and immediately stopped the train and shut down the engines.

“The crew followed safety procedures and ended up calling 9-1-1,” Hubbard said. That brought a response from firefighters and environmental health officials.

Hubbard said the spill, which happened just before noon Monday, was limited to about a 15-foot – by – 25-foot section along and in between the tracks just west of Camage Ave.

“There was no derailment, no injuries and no threat of fire or to the environment,” Hubbard stressed, but the area had been cordoned off by fire crews.

Officials at the scene did not have an exact cause for the leak, although there was speculation something may have been on or near the tracks that punctured the tank Hubbard said the fuel tank has a capacity of 1,800 gallons.

Oakdale-based Sierra Northern Railroad officials were headed to Sonora to inspect the damaged locomotive and determine a cause for the leak. The train will then have to be moved to allow work crews to get at the spill area under the freight cars.

CDF Battalion Chief Richard Imlach said crews will have to remove the contaminated roadbed material and dirt and move it to a location near the site where the fuel will be allowed to dissipate from the dirt and gravel over time.

Firefighters will remain at the scene for a while this afternoon.