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Fort Payne Fire conducts dangerous train derailment training


DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Hazmat crews were seen sealing a leak in an overturned tanker Thursday morning as part of a training exercise between the Fort Payne Fire Department and Norfolk Southern.

First responders were on a used tank truck simulating procedures for a sulfuric acid leak from a derailed train.

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“There’s a lot of training going in that direction,” Norfolk Southern representative Cris Burch said during the simulation. “They have to go through years of training to be able to approach a tank car. So today was kind of a first step to go through some of the things we can do for a tank car that they can do before we get on site with ourselves and our contractors.

Burch oversees the management of hazardous materials for the railroad company, they are in charge of transporting these goods throughout the Southeast.

He explained that hazmat training helps prepare fire departments for the unknown.

“Railways – we transport products 99.99% of the time safely, but we have to make sure they are trained in case something goes wrong. This gives Fort Payne the most comprehensive and up-to-date training possible in the event of a rail emergency,” Burch told News 19.

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Fort Payne Mayor Brian Baine said a dangerous spill like the simulated sulfuric acid lead had never happened in DeKalb County before, but said public protection should always come before a incident, not after.

“We hope nothing will ever happen in the future with a derailment, but there are a lot of chemicals that go through these pathways every day. And so it’s good to have this opportunity to be trained in a situation if we have to do something,” said Mayor Baine.

Burch added that with the donation of the used tanker, any fire department in Alabama, Tennessee or Georgia can use the Fort Payne site to conduct similar training for their crews.

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