How prepared is Yellowstone County for oil train disasters? – KTVQ-TV, July 29, 2014

July 31, 2014

Categories: News, Oil and gas

By Victoria Hill

BILLINGS – Aside from the natural disasters that occur in Montana, Yellowstone County Disaster and Emergency Services has been pressed to plan for train derailments.

“You can never be 100-percent prepared, but I think that we work very hard at trying to be as prepared as possible,” said Yellowstone County Emergency Services Coordinator Duane Winslow.

According to Montana Rail Link’s weekly report, two million gallons of oil are expected to pass over the tracks in Yellowstone County.

“Billings has a real issue because the rail road tracks run south of downtown, we have a high occupancy of people,” said Billings Fire Chief Paul Dextras. “We have a lot of buildings. If there is a derailment downtown it really does create a huge problem.”

Part of being prepared for a derailment means having the necessary resources. One of six regional hazmat teams across the state is located in Billings.

“They’re very well trained, have a lot of equipment, they coordinate with the state and they can respond to any major hazmat incident,” Winslow said.

A derailed crude oil train rocked the small town of Cassleton, North Dakota last December,

The explosion served as a reminder that the fire department and hazmat teams should not be the only ones with a plan.

“I think it’s important for people to be aware there’s a hazard,” Dextras said. “Just do some pre-planning that if you are by railroad tracks, if that’s where your business is, if that’s where you work, if there was a derailment, if there was an explosion, if there was a large fire, think ahead of time, what would I do?”

Regulations for railroad companies are constantly evolving, but it has also pushed Yellowstone County to host one of it’s first hands-on derailment trainings this fall.

The push for proper railway oil fire training is a nationwide concern. New York State fire officials are pushing Congress for $100 million in emergency funding to pay for a nationwide training program.

220 South 27th Street, Suite A
Billings, Montana 59101
(406) 248-1154