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California rail fire that forced evacuations burns out

A rail tank car filled with propane continues to burn in Lincoln, California
A rail tank car filled with propane continues to burn in Lincoln, California

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A fire in a rail tank car that prompted evacuation of 4,800 homes and businesses in the Northern California city of Lincoln has burned out, authorities said on Thursday.

The propane tank, which caught fire on Tuesday afternoon and burned for some 36 hours as crews poured water on it to prevent an explosion, has been drained of fuel, Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Whitt said in a written statement.

Lincoln is a town of about 40,000 people some 25 miles northeast of Sacramento.

Crews were filling the 29,000-gallon tank with water and foam to clear it of vapor and officials expected to lift the evacuation order at midnight, when that process was complete, Whitt said.

He said a so-called "hot tap" procedure -- which would involve attaching a pipe to the tank while it was still burning to siphon the propane into a nearby pond -- was not required.

A team of experts had been brought in from Texas to oversee that procedure.

Evacuees were given shelter at three area facilities with support from the Red Cross.

Lincoln schools have been closed for the remainder of the week and are scheduled to reopen on Monday.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jerry Norton)