Northern Arizona first responders train for railroad disaster

Flagstaff Summit and Tribal fire departments get hands-on training to prepare for railroad hazmat situations.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Arizona first responders trained Wednesday with the BNSF Railway Company to safely protect their communities in the event of a railroad emergency.

Hazardous materials manager Jeff Hankins taught the Railroad Emergency Response Awareness Training.

“We run a lot of trains through this northern part of Arizona,” Hankins said.

Hazardous materials could be riding on those trains, causing simple problems like a small leak or something far more catastrophic -- especially in cities so close to the tracks.

“We could have to evacuate all of downtown. We could have to evacuate a lot of people out of their residences just to protect them until we can get the situation handled,” Flagstaff FD Battalion Chief Erik Caputo said.

Every couple of years, BNSF brings one of its tank cars.

This week, they used it to teach the Flagstaff, Summit and tribal fire departments how to get railway emergencies under control.

“So we reach out every way we can to our communities all along our route just to make sure they’re prepared the best possible way,” Hankins said.

The hazmat manager said in 2016, those efforts resulted in more than 9,000 first responders trained for these scenarios on BNSF tracks.

Hankins said he expected to train about 120 first responders throughout the week.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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