Rockland sheriff: CSX train was source of April's accidental brush fires

The findings from investigators led them to believe that the fires started because of emissions being sent into the atmosphere from the train's exhaust.

Diane Caruso and

News 12 Staff

Jul 7, 2023, 11:13 PM

Updated 285 days ago

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An investigation by the Rockland County Sheriff's Office found that April brush fires in the county that had multiple origins were accidental - and a CSX train was the source.
It also mentions the hot, dry weather as a factor that contributed to the fires that burned from Stony Point to Congers.
The report was obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
Investigators could not definitively determine the cause, but their findings led them to believe that these fires started because of emissions being sent into the atmosphere from the train's exhaust.
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They based their theory on the fires that happened when the train was at full throttle, then stopped when it was reduced, as well as the fires that occurred downwind and ignited at around the time it would take for emissions to land. "There really are no surprises here," said Rockland County Executive Ed Day. "While there's no absolute conclusion, factually the preponderance of all the evidence shows that this really all came from the train."
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"While not definitive, it is clear to me that CSX was responsible for the fire," said Rep. Mike Lawler
Lawler plans to make an announcement soon on the legislation he introduced to require rail lines to immediately notify the Federal Railroad Administration of any incidents on or near the tracks.
"It's critically important for the rail lines to take responsibility and communicate," Lawler added.
Day says CSX has been working to reimburse people for their loss. Day advises residents who have not been reimbursed to let him know.
Ultimately, the report recommends CSX to reduce railroad operations when there is a higher fire risk, increase monitoring of its operations and take a number of steps to work with local first responder agencies.
Investigators also noted in the report that they asked CSX for a link to see more video and all available maintenance records.
There is no word if that happened.
State Sen. Bill Weber sent News 12 a statement. It reads:
"As the State Senator representing most of Rockland County, I am proud to have spearheaded efforts to hold CSX accountable for their negligence in maintaining train tracks, resulting in multiple brush fires in our community. The most recent incident occurred in mid-April, prompting my immediate action to introduce legislation requiring CSX to maintain the tracks properly. I am fully committed to passing this bill during the upcoming legislative session to ensure the safety of our residents.
CSX has acknowledged their responsibility for these incidents, as confirmed by an investigation conducted by the Rockland County Sheriff's Office. I am pleased to report that significant progress has been made in compensating affected residents and municipalities with the assistance of my office. To date, we have helped secure close to $100,000 from CSX for residents who have contacted my staff. The resolution process is ongoing, and we anticipate a total payout of nearly one million dollars. This financial relief will be crucial in restoring affected communities and mitigating the damages caused by CSX's negligence.
If any individuals or families have sustained damage but have yet to make a claim, I encourage them to contact my office at 845-623-3627. We are here to assist and ensure that everyone impacted receives the support they need.
By shining a spotlight on CSX's actions and demanding accountability, my colleagues and I are working tirelessly to safeguard our community and prevent future incidents."
CSX also issued News 12 a comment. It reads:
"CSX has not received the report and cannot comment on the findings. CSX prioritizes safety, above all else, in communities where we operate and we continue to maintain an open line of communication with local officials to mitigate any concerns regarding our railroad."
The full report can be read below:


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