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Portland Firefighters Seek Training On Oil Train Fires And Transportation Accidents

Firefighters with Portland Fire and Rescue demonstrate how they would apply fire retardant foam to contain and extinguish an oil train fire.
Firefighters with Portland Fire and Rescue demonstrate how they would apply fire retardant foam to contain and extinguish an oil train fire.

The Portland City Council today approved a plan to send 13 firefighters to Texas for a special training course on flammable liquid fires.

Portland Fire and Rescue said they are seeking the training in response to the increased rail shipments of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields by rail and barge through the Portland area. Federal agencies have said the crude from the Bakken fields in North Dakota is more flammable than oil from other regions.

Jim Forquer, the Bureau’s Emergency Operations Chief, told the city council he’s concerned about the possibility of an oil train derailing in Portland.

“There was two train derailments in Oregon as recently as yesterday. Nothing significant, but it’s a real risk,” he said.

The Bureau says the course will also help it prepare in case of a fire at a fuel tank farm.

The training course would give firefighters 3 days of hands on practice with a type of foam that’s used to fight petroleum fires. Last year, the bureau said it did not have an adequate reserve of foam to respond to a large oil train fire in the Portland area.

The Bureau has also proposed sending 12 firefighters to an advanced HazMat course focused on responding to highway transportation accidents.

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Amelia Templeton is a multimedia reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, covering Portland city hall, justice and local news. She was previously a reporter for EarthFix, an award-winning public media project covering the environment in the Northwest.