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Rockland County, New York, officials say sparks from CSX train apparently cause brush fires

<i>WABC</i><br/>Brush fires are pictured here in Rockland County
Brush fires are pictured here in Rockland County

By Kristina Sgueglia, CNN

A CSX train apparently caused sparks as it traveled through its Rockland County, New York, route, creating “dozens of brush fires,” according to the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office.

In a Facebook post, the sheriff’s office said, “A CSX train traveling through the Town of Clarkstown, Stony Point, Haverstraw, Village of Haverstraw, Village of West Haverstraw appears to have caused sparks to fly all along the route through these municipalities, creating dozens of brush fires which the Volunteer Fire Departments and Town Police Departments are responding to.”

CSX said in a following statement, “At approximately 1:57 p.m. ET today, CSX was contacted by Haverstraw Town Police requesting that train traffic be stopped due to brush fires near Gurnee Avenue in Haverstraw, NY. CSX inspected the train that was in the area and no issues were reported. We will continue to work in close coordination with first responders and hold train traffic out of the area to allow for a safe response. CSX is cooperating with Rockland County officials, who are investigating.”

Beth Cefalu, a spokesperson for the Rockland County Executive’s Office, said preliminary indications suggest that “a train was kicking up sparks and started fires.”

The train has been stopped as firefighters put out the fires, Cefalu said.

Three firefighters suffered heat exhaustion battling the fires Friday afternoon, Cefalu told CNN. She added that she did not have information on what the train was carrying.

CNN has reached out to Rockland officials and CSX to inquire about the cause of the fire and whether the train was the impetus.

The sheriff’s office advised the public to avoid route 9W through the municipalities.

The town supervisor for Clarkstown, George Hoehmann, said as of approximately 3:30 p.m. most of the fire had burned out, but pockets were being treated and brush equipment was being brought in to hit hot spots. “This will be a long-term engagement but thankfully it appears contained,” he posted on Facebook.

By Saturday, multiple fires had “significantly died down overnight,” officials said in a news release, “and no water drops will be necessary.”

Hoehman said in the post that some homes had PVC fence melt from the heat, and one home had a pod storage unit destroyed and its home siding melted.

There have been no structure fires, Hoehmann said.

New York State Sen. Bill Weber called for a meeting with CSX.

“This fire is the third incident in recent memory, which is unacceptable,” Weber said in a tweet.

“We are happy to meet with Senator Weber to address any concerns he has,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

CNN was unable to corroborate Weber’s assertion this was the third incident in recent memory.

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CNN’s Liam Reilly, Zenebou Sylla and Celina Tebor contributed to this story.

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