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Easter bunny train sparks brush fires in Phillipsburg area

Published On: Apr 19 2014 02:07:01 PM EDT   Updated On: Apr 20 2014 07:29:24 AM EDT
Phillipsburg brush fires

Several local fire companies and the state's forest fire service were called in to battle a series of brush fires that broke out along the route of an Easter train excursion in the Phillipsburg area on Saturday.

Officials said brush that got caught up in the train's exhaust system sparked the fires.

Police dispatchers said the fire broke out around 11:30 a.m. along an area of train tracks that is servicing an Easter bunny train excursion.


Spot fires were reported over several miles from Phillispburg south to near the Hunterdon County border.

Residents who live in one neighborhood along the train route reported seeing a brush fire break out as the Easter train was passing through.

One resident told 69 News he saw sparks flying from part of the train as it was going by.

In one area, a pile of tires caught fire.

Residents attempted to put out the fires with buckets and hoses until emergency responders arrived.

A helicopter and airplane also helped douse the flames.

As of 12:30 p.m., officials said there were several spot fires burning over a several-mile area from Phillipsburg south to near the Hunterdon County border.

As of 1:30 p.m., witnesses were saying the fires appeared to be under control.

As of 2 p.m., the train carrying several hundred people was on its way back to the Phillipsburg station after being held up by the fires.

No injuries were reported.

Delaware River Railroad Excursions reported nearly 500 people were on-board when the fires started.

Guests didn't get off the train until after 3 p.m., more than two hours later than the expected return time, officials said.

"They were great while we were on the train. Really nice. They had bunnies coming through a lot and a guy with the banjo singing. So they kept the kids entertained. An overall good day, just longer than we expected," said Ann Merkel, who was on the train.

The fires cancelled two train rides. Anyone wishing to exchange their ticket should contact Delaware River Railroad Excursions by visiting its website.