Firefighters responded Sunday morning to an occupant report of a train derailment on the CSX rail line near Main Street NW and Camp Creek Road SW in the city of Lilburn. The 911 caller advised the train had derailed at about 1:43 a.m. and was taking on water. Additional reports advised the train was on its side and two CSX employees were attempting to get out the locomotive. Firefighters in the area investigating a possible woods fire on Bailey Drive SW determined their call to be the same as the train derailment.
On arrival, crews found what would later be confirmed as 38 railcars derailed between Main Street NW and Rockbridge Road NW. A Unified Command with representatives from Gwinnett Fire and Lilburn Police was established at Lilburn City Park. Several railcars were engulfed in flames shortly after arrival between Jon Jeff Drive NW and Bailey Drive SW. Lilburn Police contacted the lead locomotive that was derailed and assisted the engineer and conductor to safety near Main Street. Both CSX employees were assessed at the scene and transported with minor injuries to a local hospital.
Additional fire crews, along with the Gwinnett County Hazardous Materials Response Team began arriving on scene and performing a reconnaissance of the incident. Hazmat technicians performed atmospheric monitoring in the area and began initiating spill control measures with difficulty due to the swollen creek. With the fire involving hazardous materials, a decision was made to begin evacuation of the area closest to the fire. Lilburn Police and firefighters assisted with this task and the Reverse 911 system was activated by the Gwinnett County E911 Communications Center. The Reverse 911 system contacted land lines within a half-mile radius of the incident and instructed people to evacuate the area until further notice.
Fire apparatus were put into position on both sides of the fire to protect homes in case the fire spread through the wood line. An unmanned master stream appliance was deployed to cool railcars exposed to the fire. Approximately two hours into the incident, the fire had substantially subsided but still posed a threat to the surrounding area. At approximately 5:30 a.m., crews operating on scene determined the fire and hazmat to be under control with good air quality readings in the area. At that time, the evacuation order was lifted and residents were allowed to return to their homes.
Multiple agencies were involved in bringing the situation under control in the early morning hours. CSX representatives arrived on scene quickly and began a massive mobilization of response personnel. Lilburn Police, Gwinnett County Police and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office supported the operations with evacuations and traffic control in the area. Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources responded to the scene to investigate the impacts on storm water runoff. Gwinnett County Office of Emergency Management fulfilled multiple requests for assistance including a fire department mutual aid request for Dekalb County Fire Rescue’s Hazmat Team. Dekalb County Fire Rescue arrived in the area and stood by until it was determined they were not needed. The National Response Center was notified of the hazardous materials and the EPA and EPD responded to the scene to evaluate the environmental impact of the incident.
Firefighters will continue to remain on scene and support CSX operations as needed. CSX is working with environmental cleanup companies to minimize impact to the environment. All further information requested about the incident will need to be directed to CSX media group.