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Officials hope to tackle train fire in New Brunswick after removing several cars

PLASTER ROCK, N.B. - Officials said they hoped to start Friday tackling the fire that continues to burn on several train cars days after they derailed in New Brunswick, sparking a blaze fuelled by liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil on board.

CN (TSX:CNR) spokesman Jim Feeny said crews worked through the night and removed about six box and crude cars to allow firefighters to get closer to the site of the blaze in Wapske (Wob-ski), near Plaster Rock in northwestern New Brunswick.

"Before we can deal with the fire directly, we had to get the other cars that are adjacent to the cars on fire clear of the scene," he said. "As the cars are removed and we have full access to them, the plan is to address the fire directly later on today."

Feeny said the fire has changed little since Thursday, but was stable as cars continued to burn since going off the track Tuesday at about 7 p.m. Some of the crude cars have spilled an unknown amount of their contents, but Feeny said the leak has been contained.

A fire of diesel fuel has gone out and a crude oil fire has receded, but Feeny said the ongoing concern centred on two tankers containing liquefied petroleum gas.

Quelling the flames could allow investigators with CN and the federal Transportation Safety Board to get closer to the wreck as they try to determine what caused 19 cars and a locomotive in the 122-car train to go off the track and erupt in flames.

A senior investigator with the safety board said Thursday that they found a cracked wheel and broken rail at the scene of the derailment, but cautioned that it's too early to determine the exact cause.

Feeny has said that based on its preliminary investigation, the company believes a wheel and possibly an axle failure caused the derailment, which forced about 150 people to be evacuated from their homes.

Some residents have been allowed to temporarily return to their homes.

Officials from CN, the province's Environment Department and the Emergency Measures Organization met with residents affected by the evacuation Thursday and were asked about the environment and drinking water.

The province's Health Department said as a precaution, people in the area with private wells should not drink their water until after they have been tested.

Feeny said CN will cover the costs of the cleanup and compensate those whose properties have been damaged and incurred expenses as a result of the evacuation.

The Canadian Press

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