Cleanup continues at scene of train derailment in Raymond

Dark tanker cars lie crumpled on top of snow
Burlington Northern Santa Fe workers are seen inspecting damaged tanker cars after a freight train derailed early morning Thursday, on the western edge of Raymond, Minn. The railroad company reported that 22 cars had gone off the tracks, prompting officials to evacuate the town.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Cleanup will continue Friday at the scene of Thursday’s train derailment and fire in the western Minnesota community of Raymond.

The Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office said late Thursday that crews started moving some of the 22 derailed cars to better access the handful still burning.

“Local first responders and BNSF personnel are still on-site and will remain on site through the night to mitigate the incident,” the sheriff's office reported. “BNSF has staged non-PFAS firefighting foam near the site should it be needed for fire suppression.”

BNSF — Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway — said the derailed cars contained ethanol and corn syrup, and that no other hazardous materials were involved.

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The federal Environmental Protection Agency responded to Raymond to monitor the air for “particulate matter and volatile organic compounds.” As of Thursday afternoon, the EPA said it had not found any particulate matter levels of concern “and so far, low levels below health concerns of VOCs have been detected only immediately downwind of the cars in a non-populated area.”

Air quality monitoring was set to continue overnight.

The derailment and subsequent fire on the western edge of Raymond at about 1 a.m. Thursday prompted officials to evacuate the city of about 900 people, about 90 miles west of the Twin Cities. There were initial concerns the rail cars could explode.

Residents were allowed to return home around midday. Gov. Tim Walz, who visited the derailment site and the evacuation site in nearby Prinsburg on Thursday, said the cars that derailed were “state-of-the-art” quality that were reinforced to prevent an explosion.

Authorities have not said what may have caused the derailment. Federal investigators were en route to the scene on Thursday.

A stretch of State Highway 23 at Raymond is expected to remain closed into the weekend, as crews work at the derailment scene. The BNSF rail line runs adjacent to the highway. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has a detour in place using county roads.

The derailment, fire and subsequent monitoring as authorities let the ethanol burn off drew a large response of first responders from across the region. The Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office said crews from 28 different fire departments assisted Raymond firefighters at the scene.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach are set to visit the scene and meet with local officials on Friday.