A train carrying hazardous materials derailed and caught fire near the village of Rockwood in north-central Maine on Saturday, but officials said the derailment posed no threat to public health or safety.

The Kansas City Canadian Pacific freight train derailed around 8:30 a.m. in Sandwich Academy Grant Township in Somerset County, according to a statement from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Three locomotives and six wagons carrying lumber and electrical wiring derailed in a wooded area, where they burst into flames and started a small forest fire. In the statement released around 6 p.m., the department said the fires were contained and monitored.

Additional cars carrying hazardous materials did not derail, the statement said, and officials at the scene said the hazardous materials were not at risk of leaking or catching fire.

Three railway workers were sent to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

An initial assessment indicates the derailment may have been caused by an accumulation of melting ice and debris that washed away part of the track, the department said.

The CPKC said in a statement on Saturday evening that the derailment occurred when the train was swept away by a railway line and that the fire at the scene only involved locomotives and wooden wagons. The incident took place about 15 miles east of Jackman.

“The hazardous materials carried by the train are not involved in this fire,” the statement said.

A CPKC spokesperson did not respond to an additional request for more information on what the materials were and where the train was going and coming from. The company statement said there was no evacuation and there is no threat to public safety.

“We are coordinating with local first responders who are on site,” he said. “Our emergency response teams and hazmat experts have responded and continue to conduct a full assessment of the situation.”

The Maine Forest Service, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and local first responders were on the scene Saturday evening, and a unified command center was established in Jackman.

Governor Janet Mills tweeted on Saturday evening that she had been briefed on the situation and that officials on site had indicated there was no threat to public health or safety.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and I thank all emergency first responders for their quick action,” Mills said.

First responders said the derailment was 3 miles east of the Demo Road bridge and crews were using heavy equipment to clear a snowmobile trail to access it.

Rockwood is a mostly rural area near Moosehead Lake, one of the largest freshwater bodies in the state.

The derailment is the latest to plague the rail industry. Federal regulators and members of Congress are urging railroads to do more to prevent derailments after recent burning wrecks involving hazardous chemicals in Ohio and Minnesota prompted evacuations.

Morning Sentinel reporter Amy Calder and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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