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Firefighters step back as highly flammable chemical continues to burn in 50-car train derailment

A state of emergency and shelter in place remains in effect until further notice in the village of East Palestine
drone footage of east palestine
Posted at 6:54 PM, Feb 05, 2023

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — A state of emergency in an Ohio village near the Pennsylvania border continues tonight after a train derailment, resulting in a large fire. Officials now report hazardous material was on board.

The chemical on board that’s of most concern is vinyl chloride. It’s a colorless gas that’s highly flammable. It’s often used to produce polyvinyl chloride, which is in products like pipes, wire coatings, and even plastic kitchenware.

68 entities from three states and multiple counties responded to help put out the fire. Nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated since Saturday.

“It’s a dangerous situation, which is why the evacuation notice is still in place one mile around it’s still a very volatile situation and can turn in an instant so please stay out of town,” said Trent Conaway, Mayor of East Palestine.

So far, the EPA said the air quality and drinking water remain safe, even though a nearby stream has been contaminated.

“There has been some runoff detected in the stream,” said East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick. “A contract company from Norfolk Southern in partnership with the EPA are mitigating that doing continuous testing and putting in safeguards to prevent any further downstream flow of that material.”

RELATED: Fire in East Palestine caused by 50-car derailment continues

Rail operator, Norfolk Southern, said a variety of chemicals were being carried on the train cars, but the highly flammable chemical, vinyl chloride, remains the biggest concern. 400,000 gallons of water has been used thus far to try to contain the fire, but due to ongoing safety hazards, firefighters have been instructed to step back and let it burn.

“We have to let the professionals take care of this,” said Conaway. “We are by no means experts, they are, so they need to handle this and tell us what to do. After that, the federal government will take over. It’s their scene.”

This is still very much an ongoing situation. Once the fire dies down, that’s when firefighters will be attempting to put the fire out again. No injuries have been reported and the Red Cross has stepped in to help the thousands who have been displaced. The village remains in a shelter-in-place until further notice.

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