The Cass County Sheriff's Office issued a release in which it strongly recommended Casselton's approximately 2,400 residents and others living within 5 miles to the south and east of the town to vacate the area, the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported. People within 10 miles of Casselton were advised to seek shelter and avoid going outside until the incident is over.
BNSF Railway spokeswoman Amy McBeth told the newspaper the blaze was ignited when a westbound grain train derailed and crashed into an eastbound crude oil train, causing it to leave the tracks about 1 mile west of Casselton about 2:10 p.m.
The sheriff's office said the forecast was for winds to push the plume of smoke downward, increasing the potential of health hazards.
About 10 of the 106 oil tanker cars were ablaze, but no crew members were injured in the accident, McBeth said.
Sheriff's Office Sgt. Tara Morris said crews had detached about half of the oil train cars to get them away from the accident site while the oil was being allowed to burn down in the cars that had caught fire.
"That's really what they have to do is let those cars that are burning burn," Cass County Administrator Keith Berndt said. "And there's a few more cars that may still ignite."
Thick black smoke rising from the accident scene could be seen up to 15 miles away.
"The sky is totally black from smoke," Eva Fercho of Casselton said.