CREWS extinguish two fires, remove cars as firefighters find renewed hope amid wreckage

Saturday, July 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Firefighters made progress Saturday against a smoky fire inside a downtown train tunnel, removing several cars and putting out some of the flames.

``It's certainly a much, much brighter picture than it was yesterday,'' Fire Department spokesman Hector Torres said.

The CSX freight train carrying hydrochloric acid and other hazardous materials derailed inside the tunnel and caught fire on Wednesday, crippling the city, halting major league baseball games and disrupting Internet service across the country by damaging cables.

Emergency workers pulled 21 more cars from the tunnel early Saturday, including a ruptured tanker carrying hydrochloric acid, leaving only 11 inside.

Three cars were still burning in the downtown tunnel, and three more were smoldering, Torres said.

Crews focused Saturday on removing the ruptured tanker, which will have to be put on another car.

``We're making good progress and we see light at the end of the tunnel,'' Acting Fire Chief Carl McDonald said.

Two emergency workers suffered heat-related injuries when they entered the tunnel early Friday to inspect damage. They were released after treatment.

A ruptured water main above the tunnel continued gushing into a major downtown intersection, partly collapsing the street. At least 60 million gallons of water had spewed from the pipe.

City crews said the leak could not be stopped until the fire was extinguished, hazardous materials had been removed and the tunnel walls had been certified safe.

``We're not anticipating the tunnel situation being totally resolved over the weekend,'' public works spokesman Kurt Kocher said.

Fire trucks sprayed a steady stream of water over the area to control vapors. Hydrochloric acid can burn the lungs if inhaled, as can another hazardous chemical carried on the train, hydrofluoric acid.

Officials of the Maryland Department of the Environment said regular air quality tests since Wednesday showed no signs of hazardous chemicals in the smoke.