Clipped From The Jackson Sun
Firefighters battle blaze on trestle By G.J. Yadamec Sun reporter Madison County firefighters struggled this morning to save a creosote-soaked railroad trestle over Cane Creek in the north Bemis area of Jackson. Driftwood piled at the trestle's base was also ablaze, adding to the thick column of black smoke that boiled into the sky. "With these little brush trucks, I don't think we're going to be able to do anything," County Fire Chief Kelly Holmes told Assistant City Chief Don Cole soon after the firefighters arrived on the scene. The narrow access road to the trestle is pressed on one side by trees; on the other side is loose, rocky soil. "I'm afraid we'd tear the lights off' trying to bring in trucks bigger than the brush trucks, Holmes said. But soon after, the Jackson Fire Department managed to get a line from a hydrant on Highland Avenue to the fire scene. Three big pumpers made up the relay that helped keep pressure and volume up on the feeder line, which stretched about half a mile. . Before that, the brush trucks' small pumps were used to pump water from tankers. The call came in to the county fire department at 8:58 a.m. Holmes didn't know how the fire started, but said the Metro Arson Squad was investigating. The burning trestle heated air 30 yards away to searing temperatures before the first water was poured onto it. Illinois Central Gulf Railroad workers hooked an engine to a short line of rail cars that was partially on the trestle. When they pulled them away, one flat car was scorched and hot enough to set afire some of the high weeds next to the line. "All of it's just stored equipment," said Ken Taylor, one of several ICG officials at the scene. "They were waiting to be scrapped," ICG Trainmaster R.L. Koonce said. Two dozen cars were linked to the damaged flat car. The undercarriage, which provides the framework for the wheels, will have to be replaced before it can be moved, Koonce said. The boxcar next to the flat car was hot but didn't seem to be badly damaged. At 9:30 a.m., firefighters seemed to be making little progress against the flames, but the heavier line brought in by the city department provided water more quickly. At 11:45 a.m., firemen were cooling charred and smouldering timbers. Railroad workers were waiting to check whether support timbers had enough wood left in them to be used. If repair of the trestle means only replacing ties and straightening rails, it could be fixed in a week, Koonce said. Complete rebuilding would take a month or so. While the smoke rose, north and southbound traffic on Highland in the vicinity of Jimmy Payne Volkswagen and Mazda was slowed. "We had some congestion" caused by people in cars gawking at the smoke, said Capt. Thomas Acuff of the Jackson Police Department. Hoses also stretched across both lanes. The rails crossing the trestle were the "old main line for the IC Railroad," Koonce said. But the line was closed several years ago, and rails were removed. The line crossed Highland just north of the downtown area, crossing a trestle over the street. The low trestle, which regularly clipped the tops of transport trucks, has been removed. The line's only connection now was to the Thomason Warehouse and Distribution Center and to The Jackson Sun, which uses it to bring in supplies of newsprint. 5 1 y t - , . ' i r, iiti nig fir,. ' "I J i X I , 1 i : It A f u Sun photo by Larry Atherton At first it was almost like spitting on a campfire as Fire Chief Kelly Holmes, in the white helmet, and other Madison County firefighters battled a fire that charred a trestle early today.