USA — A heavily loaded train heading south along the South-Central Florida Express rails in Lake Placid sparked a series of brush fires along five miles of track, starting just north of downtown.
Nearly 20 firefighters from six different departments responded to the flare-ups and kept the flames from damaging any buildings, despite the fire getting to within feet of some of the buildings on the west side of Main Avenue.The northernmost fire was right at the edge of downtown, and the southern tip of the damage was near Old State Road 8, halfway between U.S. 27 and State Road 70, Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department Chief Adam Hess said.
A stretch of about 100 yards through downtown was heavily scorched, casting a layer of smoke over Main Avenue and the surrounding streets out to U.S. 27.
Hess the only damage other than brush was to a power pole, an air conditioner and a pile of old railroad ties, which needed foam to be extinguished due to their coating of creosote.
“It wasn’t a locked brake (that started the fire),” Hess said. “The train had a heavier load than normal, so the soot particles from the exhaust were super heated and started the fires.”
Hess said fires along the tracks are not uncommon.
“It seems like every couple of years we get a fire along there. Most of the times, it’s from brakes. This is the first time we’ve had one from exhaust.”
Firefighters soak down the area of a brush fire along the train tracks in downtown Lake Placid Monday afternoon. The fires, which spanned a five-mile stretch of track, were sparked by exhaust from a southbound freight train.
Hess said he’s going to ask the railroad company to keep its easement mowed to help limit the danger of future fires.
Hess said that in addition to his department, firefighters from Leisure Lakes, Highlands County Fire Services, Highlands Park, Placid Lakes and Sun ‘N Lake South were also involved in the effort.