The Kalispell Fire Department and HazMat Team got a refresher course Friday on what to do if there's trouble on the railway. Railway officials tell NBC Montana it's part of Burlington Northern Santa Fe's safety program. BNSF trains thousands of first responders every year in the communities they serve.
"Being prepared is absolutely critical in working with our first responders in case something does happen," said BNSF's Mike Jones. "It's a great opportunity to do this."
Captain Rob Cherot and his team practiced on a special training tank car. When vapor started to escape from the top of the car, the crew donned hazmat suits and climbed aboard. The leak stemmed from a faulty pressure relief valve and it had to be stopped using a chlorine or C-Kit.
"[It's a] device that we can clamp on the valve housing that will cap over top of it with a rubber gasket," Cherot explained. "Then we use pressure with a wrench and just tighten it down over the top of the whole valve assembly to stop the leak."
Cherot told NBC Montana the hazmat team trains monthly, but they only work with the railway once a year.
"There's a lot of hazardous mateirals that get transported through the area either by truck or rail. It's important to be able to deal with those," Cherot said.
"Every accident and injury is preventable. We've come a long way to achieveing that vision," Jones concluded.
In 2012, the railway conducted 185 hazardous materials training sessions and reached over 4400 emergency responders.