Overnight, there were two partial collapses of the 85-year-old Portland & Western railroad trestle. At this time, one-third of the 600-foot-long trestle remains standing. The remaining portion is severely compromised and may collapse at any time as it continues to burn.
A dozen firefighters are positioned to monitor the trestle for collapse and, as that occurs, ensure that the collapsed fuel load does not ignite a fire in the surrounding brush. The primary goal of firefighting operations at this time is to protect the neighborhood to the south of the burning trestle and the businesses to the north, as well as minimize any environmental impact.
The trestle is expected to burn throughout the day. Incident commanders ask that people avoid coming to the scene for observation while firefighting operations are underway for the safety of everyone. Citizens in the vicinity are encouraged to stay indoors and keep their doors and windows shut. If respiratory problems develop, please seek medical attention.
At 4:21 p.m. Monday, multiple callers to 911 reported a burning train trestle near Tualatin-Sherwood Road and Langer Parkway in Sherwood. First-arriving fire crews observed the rapidly burning Portland and Western Railroad trestle, which spans 600 feet and sits 50 feet over wetlands and a stream.
Due to rapid fire spread, fire commanders decided to let the trestle burn and prioritized crews' efforts to fighting the brush fire that had ignited below. Firefighters contended with access difficulties and overhead power lines.
A large column of black smoke was visible for several miles as the trestle burned.
Within 30 minutes, structural support members of the 50-foot-high trestle began collapsing, so firefighters retreated to outer edges of the area to avoid falling debris. Several divisions were established to protect nearby businesses and rail cars, and nearby roads were closed, including Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood Road and Southwest Century Drive.
A second alarm was called at 5:24 p.m. to bring additional engines, four-wheel-drive brush vehicles and firefighters to the scene. Businesses east of the trestle were also evacuated as a precaution.
Firefighters wet down edges of the wetland perimeter and systematically worked to fight the fire to keep it from spreading to nearby homes and businesses, including Northstar Chemical and Allied Systems.
As of 9:30 p.m., the southeast flank of the fire is out, but several acres of brush and grass continue to burn. It's expected the unstable and collapsing trestle could burn for several days.
Police officers and fire personnel are using a community notification phone system and knocking on doors to notify residents and businesses within a 2.5-square-mile area about smoky conditions. More than 7,000 residences were notified by phone call, text message, or e-mail. No additional evacuations are taking place, and residents are advised to keep windows and doors closed as the area is smoke-filled at times.
Now is an excellent time for all residents interested in receiving notifications during emergencies to sign up at www.publicalerts.org.
Fire commanders remain focused on fire suppression, limiting environmental impacts, and rotating firefighters to prevent injuries. As of 9:30 p.m., 300,000 gallons of water have been used during firefighting operations. TVF&R is being assisted by Sherwood Police and City of Sherwood staff. The cause of the fire is unknown and remains under investigation.
As of 11:12 p.m., the brush fire surrounding the trestle was 100 percent contained. Firefighters are continuing a defensive fire attack on the trestle fire. Incident commanders will replace crews overnight and ramp up offensive efforts in the morning.
Residents and businesses in the Sherwood area are asked to keep their doors and windows closed as the area continues to be smoke-filled at times. Additionally, reduce your amount of time spent outside for the next few days and drink plenty of water.
Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood Road is open as of 11:12 p.m. and is expected to be open for the morning commute. Citizens are asked to stay away from the area for their safety and that of firefighters.
Additional updates will follow.