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Published December 31, 2013, 06:56 PM

Casselton residents near explosion had front-row seat

Casselton, ND (WDAY TV) - Despite officials urging evacuations, not everybody in town left Monday night, including one family very near to the accident.

By: Becky Parker, WDAY

Casselton, ND (WDAY TV) - Despite officials urging evacuations, not everybody in town left Monday night, including one family very near to the accident.

One of the homes closest to the accident had a front-row seat to the whole thing.

As the town of Casselton lay quiet, many residents evacuated the scene near a fiery train collision; Sheldon Steen was watching the flames from his bay window.

Steen and his family have lived in this house next to the train tracks for more than 20 years.

Sheldon Steen- Lives Near Accident: "We've gotten used to the trains throughout the years and the whistles."

In that time, they've seen a few derailments, but never anything quite like this.

Just a half a mile away, their back window gave them front-row seats to the stunning sight.

Steen: "The black smoke and the flames that were coming out right at the beginning; the flames were probably a good two telephone poles up in the air."

The house is so close to the scene of the accident that when explosions erupted, they could feel the heat through their living room window.

Monday evening, Cass County deputies came door-to-door, urging residents to leave town in case shifting winds brought the toxic smoke their way.

…But the family chose to stay.

Steen: "We wanted to watch and keep an eye on things and keep an eye on the house. We knew that as long as the wind is out of the north, we're going to be ok."

The wind did shift their way for a short time, leaving a trace of ash in the snow around the house.

Steen says he didn't get much sleep, staying awake all night to monitor the fire.

And he's thankful. It could have been much worse.

Steen: "If it had happened a half mile this way, it would have been a very disastrous situation for everybody in this town."

About 65% of the town evacuated Monday night, many staying with friends and family; others in emergency shelters.

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