Senators call for trains with hazardous materials to stop in Gorge due to wildfires

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are calling for a stoppage of trains transporting hazardous materials in the Gorge due to wildfires.

The U.S. senators sent a letter Thursday to Burlington Northern Santa Fe CEO Matthew Rose.

They praised BNSF for temporarily stopping train traffic when the Eagle Creek Fire began, but questioned “prematurely resuming service.”

The senators said they are “conveying concerns they have heard firsthand from Gorge constituents.”

“We request that BNSF postpone movements of oil trains and trains carrying other hazardous materials through the Columbia River Gorge while there are active wildfires and the ongoing concern of flash flooding and rockslides,” the senators wrote.

The Eagle Creek Fire has burned nearly 49,000 acres and was 46 percent contained Thursday. Embers from the fire jumped the river at one point, starting the Archer Mountain Fire in Skamania County.

The Archer Mountain Fire was declared 100 percent contained on Sept. 13. 

A spokesman for Wyden said the senators did not reach out to Union Pacific, because that company has committed to not move oil while wildfires burn in the Gorge.