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Rail fire won't handicap port
With repair crews working around the clock to fix the damaged train trestle to Colonel's Island, Georgia Ports Authority officials expect to resume rail traffic to the Brunswick port by Wednesday evening.

A fire Monday on the trestle that parallels U.S. 17 South over a marsh damaged the rail and destroyed a freight car and 16 luxury vehicles it was hauling.

"We are in pretty good shape," said Bill Morris, spokesperson for the ports authority, which owns the track. "The repairs are rather minor. We expect to be back up by 5 p.m. (Wednesday)."

The cause of the blaze remains unknown, said Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner John Oxendine, who surveyed the damage Tuesday.

His office is the lead agency investigating the fire, and because it happened at a port, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting.

"We don't see any reason to expect foul play at this time," Oxendine said. "But we are not ruling anything out. We are trying to determine if it happened inside or outside of the rail car."

Oxendine said the fire was contained to one rail car that had the appearance of being two cars coupled together. It was carrying 16 Mercedes-Benz vehicles with a total value of more than $800,000.

The fire comes just two months after Mercedes-Benz USA opened a processing facility on Colonel's Island, receiving a maiden shipment of vehicles in January. It was the first delivery of what is expected to be 40,000 vehicles to be processed annually at the facility.

Monday afternoon, firefighters from the Glynn County Fire Department managed to contain the blaze, which started shortly before 2:30 p.m. Three fire engines and several water tankers were sent to the trestle that had to be reached through a marsh. St. Simons Island volunteer firefighters also were called to assist.

Officials said the damage from Monday's fire wasn't as severe as the last time the trestle caught fire. Almost seven years ago, a fire destroyed portions of the train trestle, temporarily shutting down the agri-port facility, which depends on rail.

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