PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A train towing a highly volatile type of oil derailed Friday in Oregon’s scenic Columbia River Gorge, igniting a fire that sent a plume of black smoke high into the sky and spurring evacuations and road closures.
Eleven cars derailed in the 96-car Union Pacific train and at least one ignited, releasing oil alongside tracks that parallel the region’s treasured Columbia River, said Aaron Hunt, a spokesman for the railroad. All the cars were carrying Bakken oil, a type of oil that is more flammable because it has a higher gas content and vapor pressure and lower flash point than other varieties.
The accident immediately drew reaction from environmentalists who said oil should not be transported by rail, particularly along a river that is a hub of recreation and commerce.
“Moving oil by rail constantly puts our communities and environment at risk,” said Jared Margolis, an attorney at the