A trio of Escalon firefighters has returned from some intensive training, learning how to handle disasters along the rails.
Like most training for emergency situations, the three hope they don’t have to use it, but would rather be prepared and know how to best handle the situation should one arise.
Battalion Chief Joe Pelot and firefighters Moe Silva and Rigo Fonseca made the trip to Pueblo, Colorado for the specialized training put on through the Union Pacific Railroad.
“We flew out on April 17, flew back on the 21,” said Pelot. “It was based on the new ‘crude by rail’ training which has become such a topic.”
With many rail lines having cars loaded with a variety of flammable and volatile liquids, and with so many trains rolling through Escalon on a daily basis, fire officials decided to take advantage of the training opportunity.
“We learned about the safety aspects of rail cars, we practiced cooling and foaming applications with live fire.”
Pelot said the plan is to now incorporate some of that training in to the local department’s repertoire as best they can.
“It was open to three people from each department,” Pelot added of the training, which was provided free of charge. “They have live classes that will run all the way into September.”
Silva said the hands-on aspect proved to be most beneficial.
“I enjoyed the live fire training, and we learned a lot about the train cars and how to handle them if there is a derailment.”
For Fonseca, he said the lesson was in knowing what, as a small department, you can realistically do.
“The biggest thing was learning what you can handle yourself, and what you would need help for from the outside,” he said.
The three said they are aware that the railroad does have foam trailers that can be dispatched to derailment sites in case of emergency.
“But is still is an hour away,” Pelot noted of the foam trailers, which is why it was important to learn how to keep the situation under control while awaiting the outside assistance.
Officials don’t believe any Bakken Crude is on trains going through Escalon currently, but Pelot said there are a lot of flammable liquids on the trains that pass through.
“There could be 65 to 85 trains a day, we don’t always know what’s on them,” he said.
“Just knowing what you’re dealing with is helpful,” added Silva.
On the final day of the training in Colorado, Pelot was tapped as an Incident Commander and ran the incident response, while Silva and Fonseca were involved in the firefighting effort.