Video of the fire train used on the Delta Fire

firefighting train
A Union Pacific firefighting train on the Delta Fire. Screenshot from footage filmed by Dan Ryant.

Firefighting trains have been around for well over 100 years — the first ones were pulled  by steam locomotives, but you rarely see them since they are used in remote areas near a fire that has limited access by the public. The apparatus usually consists of one or more tank cars that each hold more than 10,000 gallons of water and a high-volume pump that can support a master stream and additional hand-held hose lines.

The concept is to protect the railroad infrastructure, keeping the right of way open for trains. And sometimes the railroad will serve as a fire line — the application of water could keep the fire from crossing to the other side.

The videos below of a Union Pacific firefighting train were shot at the Delta Fire, the 63,000-acre blaze north of Redding, California. The first one is from ABC news, featuring fire photographer Dan Ryant. The one after that is raw footage shot by Mr. Ryant mostly from the top of the train.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “Video of the fire train used on the Delta Fire”

  1. It looks like a good idea to extinguish fires, but it is also very limited in terms of mobility. The train can only go through a pre-determined route. I see the train as a more effective method for containing the fire within the borders of the railroad.

  2. What a fantastic way to transport or store water. Reservoir on wheels. From water saturated areas to highly flammable areas. There must be empty rail cars suitable for this purpose. Could build rail storage yards for future use. What a way for big industry to assist much needed water. Love the idea. Former hotshot fighter from the early 60’s.

  3. back in the early 1980s,we had a series of starts along the SP mainline here in placer county,the SPs fire train showed up in Auburn and they only had an engineer and brakeman/conductor on the train,my capt asked if they could use a hand,so a 5 minute instruction training later,myself and another guy were on top the tankcar and working the monitors,had a blast,went from Auburn east all the way to Truckee,then back went to the balloon track,we turned around and went back to Truckee (was a reported fire near Norden,never found that one),turned on the balloon at Truckee once again,went all the way to Roseville,and our capt picked us up afterward. passing through the tunnel at the summit was a real…i didnt care for it.


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