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Answers Emerging On Train Derailment Response Plans

Fargo Fire Chief Steve Dirkson says he is encouraged by the wide range of activity to increase the local ability to respond to emergencies like oil train derailments. Dirkson says the December derailment in Casselton raised a lot of questions in the public safety community…

“It did open up the needs of ‘What is it going to take to handle something of this magnitude.’ And then you started really thinking about what if it happened in downtown Fargo. What does that look like? And I know Bismarck has had the same conversation, and Grand Forks and Minot. We’ve all had these conversations about what if it happened in our community, what would that look like?”

Dirkson says since the Casselton event there has been a lot of discussion, and some preliminary answers are being found. He says taking the issue forward on the federal level is U-S Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and so far he is supportive of the ideas being presented…

“… You know, just the idea that somebody’s going to study this. We’re going to put a report out there and hopefully we understand, going forward, the dangers that are in a community. Because, you know, the first responders all across the state and across the country… the fire departments and police departments… are going to be the first group of people that are going to deal with this. And it’s a specialized thing to deal with it. And it requires specialized training and specialized equipment and not everyone is equipped to deal with this in the same manner.”

Dirkson says a “table top exercise” held by state officials this week was also helpful in developing a coordinated effort on how to respond… And he says even the railroads are getting involved…

“Burlington Northern and C-P Rail have allocated about $5-Million to send people to Pueblo, Colorado to the transportation test centers where they do a lot of testing on railcars and they also provide a lot of hazardous materials training. We have had several opportunities for volunteer and career departments to send people there and we’re going to start that in July and participate in the training that specifically gears toward dealing with crude oil and crude oil tank cars.”

Dirkson says while there are many elements coming together, it will be important to keep the message focused on the need for training and personnel.

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