Railroad fire in southeast Kansas will cost millions to replace

Video Credit: Matt Hoover

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Kan. – Officials say fire damage to a railroad trestle east of Independence will cost between $3 million and $4 million to replace. County Commissioners passed an emergency declaration Thursday, due to economic impact.

The trestle is part of the SKO Railroad, part of Watco Companies of Pittsburg.

Following Wednesday’s fire, the bridge was determined a total loss. It forced the SKO Railroad line from Cherryvale to the Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma to be shut down for an unknown amount of time.

The economic impact with the railroad line’s closure will be “profound” as multiple regional industries use that line to transport goods, according to Lee Miller of the Montgomery County Emergency Management Office.

Because of the economic magnitude of the closure, and the various county resources it took to put out the fire, commissioners approved the emergency declaration. It allows state resources to help coordinate SKO rail traffic through other rail lines in southeast Kansas. The 60-day declaration will also allow Montgomery County to be reimbursed for the resources it took to fight the fire.

CVR Energy of Coffeyville brought its chemical foam truck to the fire and sprayed about 200 gallons of foam product on the structure. However, the trestle was a 450-feet wooden structure with creosote-covered timbers and ties. Between that and other conditions, firefighters were forced to allow the fire to burn itself out.

Investigators are still looking into the cause of the fire.

Railroad officials say the bridge is insured at a replacement cost between $3-$4 million.

The trestle covers a drainage gully that eventually flows into the Verdigris River.