SoCal wildfires lead to temporary rail line suspensions
The wildfires burning throughout Southern California have resulted in delayed or suspended service for freight rail service along several key routes, though no damage to tracks has been reported and service to the Southern California ports appears to be unaffected.
The California Department of Forestry temporarily suspended Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific train traffic between Verdemont and Cajon on Monday due to several of the 15 wildfires burning from Malibu to the California border with Mexico. The fires, which continue to burn, have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres, destroyed more than 1,500 homes and structures, and are expected to cost more than $1 billion in damage. The Cajon pass, threatened by the so-called Devore fire, is one of the major points of egress for rail service heading from the Southern California ports to destinations in the eastern United States. Interstate 15, which runs alongside the rail route, has been intermittently closed since the fire broke out Monday. The California Department of Transportation reported that as of this morning the freeway was open. The Devore fire is reported to be 90 percent contained, though a high wind advisory, which could lead to flare ups, was in effect this morning.
At one point on Monday afternoon, BNSF had 15 trains stopped between Summit and Barstow, although the CDF later permitted conditional movement of the trains through the area. On Tuesday, BNSF reportedly expected transit delays of at least 24 hours for all cargo moving to and from Southern California.
However, officials at Pacific Harbor Lines, which provides inter-port rail service for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, reported today that rail traffic in and out of the neighboring ports was not being slowed by any fire-related actions.
BNSF reported that they had maintenance of way and train operations teams on site to continuously monitor the wildfire danger and to develop service recovery plans. The Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad said that if CDF determines the need to shut the rail line again due to the fires, BNSF's operating plan is to hold trains on rail sidings at Seligman, Ariz., and Gallup, N.M. Under the plan, trains will be released for movement as soon as the CDF allows trains to move to and from Southern California marine terminals.