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UPDATE: Interstate near Arizona-New Mexico line reopens after train derailment as lingering fuel burns off

A BNSF freight train.
Frank Morris
A BNSF freight train.

LUPTON, Ariz. (AP) — Interstate 40 was reopened in both directions Sunday as fire crews continued watch over a controlled burn of remaining fuel from a freight train derailment near the Arizona-New Mexico state line, a local fire chief said.

Earlier evacuation orders have now been lifted.

“It's all under control," said Fire Chief Lawrence Montoya Jr., of McKinley County, New Mexico. “Our hazmat team is on site, along with our well-trained firefighters.”

Montoya, the incident commander at the scene, said the controlled burns were still consuming remaining fuel on some cars. He said no one was hurt in the Friday derailment of the BNSF Railway train near Lupton, Arizona, which occurred on the New Mexico side of the tracks, or during the subsequent firefighting operation.

For a time, the eastbound lanes of Interstate 40 were closed around Holbrook, Arizona, and the westbound lanes of the interstate were closed at Grants, New Mexico.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation reported Sunday that motorists should continue to expect heavy smoke in some areas, as well as long delays that could require them to seek other routes or postpone travel to the area.

Montoya said firefighters continued to remove debris from the area and that repair of the tracks was under way.

The cause of the derailment remained under investigation Sunday, said Montoya. He said investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and other federal agencies were at the scene.
This post was updated to reflect recent developments with this story.

LUPTON, Ariz. (AP) — A freight train carrying fuel derailed and caught fire Friday near the Arizona-New Mexico state line, forcing the closure of an interstate highway that serves as a key trucking route.

Initial passersby posted video and photos on social media of crumpled train cars and billowing, black smoke.

No injuries were reported in the midday train wreck near Lupton, Arizona. BNSF Railway spokesperson Lena Kent said company personnel were on site working to clear the wreckage. Kent said the cause of the derailment is under investigation.

Interstate 40 was closed by authorities in both directions in the area in the early afternoon, directing trucks and motorists off the freeway to alternate routes, New Mexico State Police and the Arizona Department of Public Safety announced.

The train was transporting non-odorous propane and gasoline, and a half-dozen rail cars caught fire and burned for hours after the derailment, New Mexico State Police Lt. Phil Vargas said.

“It looks like they’re just letting those (rail) cars burn themselves out,” Vargas said.

Nearby residences and a truck stop were evacuated as a precaution as winds carried away thick smoke and local firefighting crews responded. The derailment also led Amtrak to cancel some passenger travel, including on the route between Los Angeles and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Traffic on I-40 backed up for more than 10 miles, though detours were opened on two-lane roads and highways, said Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic, a spokesperson for the New Mexico Department of Transportation. The agency warned Friday evening of an extended highway closure that would increase traffic on other interstate highways, including I-25 and I-10.

The Arizona Corporation Commission that oversees railroad safety said in a social media post on X that 10 rail cars were involved in the derailment and that two were transporting liquid petroleum. The agency said it planned to send a railroad inspector to the site but later learned the derailment happened on the New Mexico side of the tracks.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation will update conditions at www.nmroads.com