Approximately 90 different firefighters arrived on the scene to help put out the blaze

By Rachel DeSantis
July 29, 2020 04:45 PM
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Tempe train derailment and bridge fire and collapse
Chief Sylvia Moir/Twitter

A train derailed on an Arizona bridge on Wednesday morning, leading to a massive fire and subsequent bridge collapse that witnesses described to local outlets as “a scene from hell.”

A Union Pacific freight train headed for Phoenix was traveling over Tempe Town Lake around 6 a.m. when it derailed, Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Tim McMahan said, according to the Associated Press.

It remains unclear just how many crew members were on board when the incident occurred, though no train crew members were injured, said McMahan, who did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. One person suffered smoke inhalation.

McMahan said that between eight and 10 train cars caught fire, according to the AP, and many were carrying lumber, some of which fell into the lake below, KTVK/CBS affiliate KPHO reported.

Three tank cars fell to the ground under the bridge upon its collapse, but were not involved in the fire, and did not appear to have any leaks, McMahan told the AP.

He said two were carrying a toxic and flammable liquid called cyclohexanone, while the other was carrying an unidentified rubber material.

Witness Camille Kimball was riding her bike under the bridge just before it collapsed, and told KTVK/KPHO that she scene gave her “the fright of my life.”

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“It looks like a scene from hell, truly,” she said. “The flames are intense and the sky is filled with black smoke.”

“It’s such a catastrophe,” added witness Bruce Haffner.

Brandon Siebert, fire investigator and spokesman for the Tempe Fire Department, said at a media briefing broadcast by KSAZ that the fire and police departments were working to determine what exactly was in the tank cars, and had successfully evacuated the area.

“The bridge itself is on fire in addition to the partial collapse, and some of the train cars are on fire as well,” he said. “The cargo ranges anything from lumber, which of course is a very heavy fireload, as well as hazardous materials.”

He said workers will have to use rescue trains, which are essentially large tow trucks, to remove unaffected cars from the bridge.

Approximately 90 firefighters were on the scene through Wednesday afternoon from departments in Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler and Scottsdale, Siebert said.

He added that the fire was a “difficult” one to fight considering the intense Arizona heat, and the fact that firefighters are working from both sides of the lake.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality said it is monitoring air quality in the area, but there is “no imminent risk to public health,” according to KTVK/KPHO.