Local first responders say response to train accident went well - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Local first responders say response to train accident went well

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AMARILLO - The investigation of Wednesday's train accident is now in the hands of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and federal investigators, but local crews were the first on the scene and when the call goes out, crews must act quick.

"We responded with as many trucks as we had available. I think we sent nine trucks and right at 20 people," Potter County Fire Chief Richard Lake.

The majority of those responders were volunteers, but Lake says even volunteers know what to do and the first and most important thing is saving lives. "There were a total of six crew members involved and four of those were transported to the hospital," Lake said.

After all people at the scene of an accident are safe, first responders next assess what other dangers there are to the public. Anytime a scene includes tanker trucks or railway cars, the possibility of a chemical danger is high. But all first responders in the nation are required to know how to respond to a chemical danger.

Amarillo fire crews didn't respond to the train collision just outside of the city limits, but Lieutenant Jeff Reed says the response for that accident would be the same as any involving people and the transportation of chemicals. "We're trained to treat everything as a worst case scenario first," Reed said. "So that basically opens your eyes and gets you prepared for what you might experience."

All first responders are trained to look for placards on trains and trucks that indicate what the vehicle is carrying, and a booklet all American and Canadian crews always have on hand tell them how to respond appropriately. Luckily, there was no chemical spill in Wednesday's train collision, though one of the trains involved was carrying diesel fuel.

Clean-up is now up to BNSF, but Lake says his crews are on standby to help if need be. "The good thing about us being volunteer is that we do have members of our department who work for the railroad so they're familiar with the equipment and know how to get that stuff contained," Lake said.

Amarillo, Randall, Potter Emergency Management Director Kevin Starbuck said he is satisfied with the response of this accident, but he use the incident as an example of the importance of procedures at the next local emergency planning committee meeting.

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