Trolley fire lights up Roseville highway interchange

Roseville firefighters responded to a trolley fire Sept. 14 at the interchange of Highway 36 and Interstate 35W. Nobody was injured by the large blaze. (courtesy of Roseville Fire Department)

While nobody was injured by the trolley fire, it did require response from multiple agencies and two hours to get under control. The trolley was towed away well after dark. (courtesy of Roseville Fire Department)

No one was injured the afternoon of Sept. 14 after a trolley caught fire at the interchange of northbound Interstate 35W and highways 36 and 280 in Roseville.

Roseville Fire Department Battalion Chief Neil Sjostrom said the fire was called in around 6 p.m. to a location firefighters call “Spaghetti Junction.”

The vehicle, operated by Stillwater Trolley, was headed east before catching fire and stopping against the sound barrier wall on the south side of the interstate, Sjostrom said.

Initial responders, he said, saw it was “more than your average, everyday vehicle fire.”

He said the trolley, open-air and with plenty of flammable parts, was burning hot and fast with lots of oxygen to fuel the fire. The location also added to difficulties with tackling the blaze.

“Being up on the highway like that you’re almost in the middle of nowhere” with respect to fire hydrants, Sjostrom said.

A single crew of four or five firefighters can handle an average vehicle fire, but in the case of the trolley and for lack of water, multiple crews, 13-14 firefighters with fire engines in tow, responded, Sjostrom said. Falcon Heights firefighters helped put out the fire and Roseville police and the State Patrol helped control traffic.

Creating a safe work environment was key to the incident, Sjostrom pointed out, saying the No. 1 place where firefighters are killed is the side of the highway.

He said there was only one person, the driver, on the trolley as it caught fire. “She saw a puff of smoke, she pulled over and got away from it.”

While a normal vehicle fire can take 15 minutes from firefighters’ arrival to exit, the trolley fire had crews at the scene for just shy of two hours, Sjostrom said — they stuck around until the trolley was lifted onto a tow truck. Cleanup took about another half hour.

For all its smoke and fury, Sjostrom said the incident was another day on the job. “The scale and size — nothing more significant than that.”


—Mike Munzenrider

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