BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Crews from the Bakersfield Fire and Kern County Fire departments responded to a fire involving a large debris pile of creosote railroad ties in a railroad yard in central Bakersfield on Sunday near California Avenue and Elm Street.
According to reports, the outside fire is burning in a train yard west of Bakersfield High School. Black smoke was reported to have been seen in the area.
Fire crews worked through the night to extinguish what’s left of the fire and total containment is expected Monday evening. Due to current weather patterns, the smoke has continued to rise vertically and is not impacting the local area.
There are no evacuations or shelter-in-place orders at this time, BFD said.
According to the EPA, creosote is used to treat wood that is used outdoors like utility poles or railroad ties.
Hundreds of people stopped on California Avenue in traffic and on lawns with their phones, friends and families to witness the massive fire burning a pile of rail road ties. Some feared the worst.
“When I first heard of the fire I was scared,” said Sara Leos, co-owner of Red Hot Thrillz!. “I was really, really, scared because it’s so close to the shopping center, and our businesses. So, I was afraid the fire was gonna jump, gonna move.”
While some were frightened it might be a rail car on fire, others feared it might be a car carrying dangerous chemicals.
“The fireman told me it has been contained,” said Leos. “It was possibly started by homeless.”
A BNSF security officer on scene loaded a man in cuffs in the back of the patrol vehicle and questioned him, but the man was let go, according to BFD. It’s still unclear why the man was detained.
Jessica Champagne was taking a cosmetology class at City Nails in the shopping center behind the Jack in the Box at California Avenue and Oak Street, but class ended early.
“A lot of people just started swarming, coming over here,” said Champagne. “So, we just watched the firefighters put water, and take it out.”
Some even followed the massive smoke plume for miles, including Rob Sanders, to witness what firefighters call a “dirty fire.”
“I could see it on the freeway all the way across town — a huge smoke plume. I think it’s one of the biggest ones I’ve seen since I moved here,” said Sanders. “That’s the biggest campfire I’ve seen in town.”
A total of five engines and 17 firefighters responded, according to BFD captain Tim Ortiz.
Ortiz also said hazmat, air-sampling teams made it to the area for tests and no toxic levels were detected in the area. Arson units are continuing to investigate the incident and will provide an update when more information is available, he said.
Once the material cools off, excavators will separate the debris pile to help extinguish the fire, according to BFD.
No injuries or fatalities have been reported at this time.
Ortiz confirmed the fire was still burning as of Monday night.