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North and west metro cities are among those doing more training on how to handle oil car derailments. Fridley and Coon Rapids police and firefighters, for example, attended a session in April on what to expect should tankers derail and ignite, Reed said.
“We are moving in right direction,” he said. “We started talking [to responders] a year ago. Most of the locals can handle a response of some kind with some help.”
McBeth said that BNSF instructs thousands of first responders each year and since 2009 has provided free training for more than 730 responders in Minnesota, including those attending a recent session in Big Lake. She said the railroad also pays to send firefighters to learn about handling crude derailments at the national railroad training center in Pueblo, Colo.
BNSF has 30 track inspectors in Minnesota who check key routes twice as often as required, she said. The railroad also uses laser, radar and ultrasound equipment to detect track wear and invisible flaws in steel rails and the ballast beds beneath them. “It is in our business interest to prevent any accident and injury which is why we have put so much investment and effort into safety,” McBeth said.
Fridley Fire Chief John Berg said some of his firefighters have had live training for fighting flammable liquid fires at Flint Hills Refinery in the past few years. He said Fridley firefighter training on BNSF rail cars is scheduled for mid-September. Berg also noted he can call for emergency help from the North Metro Hazardous Material Team in Blaine, whose members have taken oil car firefighting classes at the Colorado railroad training center.
The biggest lesson learned from previous tanker fires and spills is “you can’t do it by yourself,” said Terry Stoltzman, Anoka County Emergency Management director. “It is a team effort of public and private resources.”