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Train derails near Bakersfield; homes evacuated

February 21, 2010 | 11:11 am

Several homes were evacuated when a freight train derailed near Bakersfield and a tanker car carrying denatured alcohol burst into flames, authorities said Sunday.

There were no injuries in the accident, which happened at about 9.30 p.m. Saturday at the entrance to a tunnel on the Tehachapi Loop south of Keene, the Kern County Fire Department said in a statement.

Two tanker cars went off the tracks and one of them caught fire, producing a toxic cloud, said Engineer Justin Corley, a Fire Department spokesman.

As a precaution, authorities evacuated homes within a mile of the incident. Fewer than 10 homes were affected, Corley said. A temporary shelter was set up at Tehachapi High School.

When the fire did not burn out overnight, the evacuation order was extended Sunday to a 2-mile radius, Corley said.

“The fire is burning some plastics in the train car and putting up  a column of dark smoke,” Corley said.  “Our crews are working with railroad crews in order to remove cars from the entrance to the tunnel, so they can extinguish the flames.”

Firefighters were also being assisted by the Kern County Environmental Health Agency, the Kern County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol.

-- Alexandra Zavis