Crews detonate 11 train cars in ‘fireball’ as part of cleanup of derailed Union Pacific train

EUREKA, Juab County — In order to safely continue cleanup of the aftermath of a derailed Union Pacific train in Juab County, officials conducted a “controlled detonation” of 11 cars carrying explosive materials.

“The decision was made to detonate,” Juab County Undersheriff Brent Pulver said Sunday evening. The explosion was set off about 9:30 p.m.

“That’s the only safest way to dispose of them,” he said. “It was controlled, but resulted in a large explosion and a large fireball. It was pretty shocking.”

The explosion occurred after crews sent a report to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality notifying state officials that an explosives expert had been requested to determine how to safely move the tanks.

Photo courtesy of the Utah Fire Marshall’s Office, St. George News

Of the 24 cars that were derailed, nine were carrying propane and two were carrying biodiesel, Pulver said. An explosion expert contracted with Union Pacific conducted the detonation.

The cause of the derailment was still unclear Sunday evening. The investigation is still ongoing, Pulver said.

The detonation was part of an ongoing, dayslong effort involving at least 60 emergency responders from multiple agencies to clean up the tangle of train cars.

Photo courtesy of the Utah Fire Marshall’s Office, St. George News

Crews will continue to work night and day, Pulver said.

“This is going to be a long process — several days,” he said. “There’s a lot of damage and a lot of stuff to clean up.”

Several agencies throughout the state are lending help for the cleanup, including local teams, the Utah State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Railroad Administration, Union Pacific personnel, the American Red Cross and the Utah National Guard’s civil support team.

Utah National Guard Maj. D.J. Gibb said two members of the guard’s civil support have lent their service and equipment to assist with communications, providing radio and phone access to help crews coordinate efficiently.

“Right now time is of the essence to get things cleaned up and taken care of,” Gibb said.

Story by Katie McKellar for

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