Train creating sparks as the metal wheels grind against the rails. Screen dump from a video by Wide World of Trains.
16 Aug 2018

Government agency blames majority of forest fires on sparks from trains


The Swedish Civil Protection Agency (MSB) believes that the train companies operating Swedish railways are behind nearly a hundred of the forest fires that plagued the country this summer.

Leif Sandahl, fire engineer at MSB, told SVT News that it is the sparks that are formed when the trains press against the rails that are behind many of the wildfires.

- It's time for the train companies to start thinking about what they are doing. They can not go around spraying sparks like while there is a fire ban in place, he says.

One of the accused companies is the logistics company Green Cargo, which was sued in connection with extensive forest fires in the county of Värmland early this summer.

"The way I see it, this police report is very important from the perspective of responsibility. If the train company was found in court to be responsible for starting the wildfire , then it is clear that it is a criminal activity that cannot continue as is, "says Sandahl.

Green Cargo has made a statement that it cannot be determined for sure that their trains caused the widfires referred to in the police report.

The company also refers to the Swedish Transport Administration, which decides on all rail traffic in the country.


Study made on trains in 2013 - composite breaks could be the solution

CTIF´s Aleš Jug, chair of the Fire Prevention Committee, made a study on Slovenian trains five years ago, and found that technical details determine if the trains create sparks or not:

"It very much depends on the type of the brakes trains are using. One solution would be composite brakes, but the problem is that the trains are coming from other countries as well, and an international agreement would need to be in place for this to be effective", says Aleš Jug to CTIF News."

"We have proposed an app for Slovenian railroads as well, to detect and suppress forest fires. They have also installed a special heat detector that track for overheated wheels and brakes", Jug continues.


Trains not a huge concern in the US:

Video & Photo Credits: This video from Wide World of Trains shows a sequence where sparks from the wheels are created when the train drives over the tracks. The cover photo is a screen dump from the video.

Photo below shows stats from CALFIRE of the most common causes of wildfires in the state of California. Trains are a comparatively low risk, according to these statistics when it comes to US wildfires:


Calfire stats of causes of wildfires in the US