Missouri firefighters train to handle oil fires


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Missouri firefighters have been receiving specialized training in how to handle emergencies caused by rail shipments of crude oil.

Nine firefighters from the Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District traveled to the Security and Emergency Response Training Center in Colorado in recent weeks, and a BNSF Railway instructor will also hold a class for the Springfield Fire Department and other agencies later this month, The Springfield News-Leader reported ( ).

"We need to know when we walk up what we're walking into, and how to attack it," said Roy Harris, a volunteer with the Logan-Rogersville fire district.

Crude oil shipments by U.S. rail have been rising as a result of increased crude oil extraction, particularly in North Dakota and Montana. A May Congressional Research Service report said the United States meets 66 percent of its crude oil demand from North American production, minimizing the need for imports but posing challenges for pipeline infrastructure.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says the average crude oil shipment travels more than 1,000 miles before reaching its destination. Last month, the Transportation Department proposed stricter rules for tank cars transporting flammable fuels after a train derailed in May in Lynchburg, Virginia, spilling 30,000 gallons of crude oil into a river. In 2013, in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, an oil train exploded, killing 47 people.

BNSF pays for the firefighter training but hasn't communicated to the public specifically how much crude oil is shipped through the area.

Springfield Fire Special Operations Chief Richard O'Connor said BNSF provided a study that shows shipments coming through the Springfield area, with the intent of giving an estimate on volume, but that the study "is not for public dissemination."

BNSF spokesman Andy Williams said the company operates one to four crude oil trains a week in Missouri, but information about the exact routes that trains carrying crude oil or hazardous materials isn't made public for security reasons. He said that information is given to emergency response agencies that seek help with their preparedness efforts.


Information from: Springfield News-Leader,

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