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Seattle Fire Fighters Still Advocating For Protection From Oil Train Hazards

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Elaine Thompson
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AP Photo

Legislation that would ensure more safety when oil trains roll through communities is still pending before lawmakers in Olympia. That’s nearly a year and a half after the fiery train derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people.

Two proposals that would help protect people from an oil train accident have been moving through the legislature in Olympia.  One is backed by environmentalists, the other more by industry.But for fire crews, including Seattle’s Assistant Chief A.D. Vickery, public safety is at risk because of the sheer volume of oil and other hazardous materials now coming through.

“And it doesn’t come through the city just by rail, it comes by ship, it comes by truck,” said Seattle’s Assistant Chief A.D. Vickery.

He says Seattle Fire has always been in the business of managing risk.

“But, unit oil trains with 100 cars –some [with up] to 3 million gallons of oil, presents a significant challenge,” he said.

A boom in oil exports that started more than three years ago has galvanized community groups into action.

There was a close call in Seattle last July when a train derailed beneath the Magnolia Bridge during a morning rush hour commute.

Seattle also has train tracks running through densely populated areas, tunnels and slopes that are hard for fire crews to access.  The chiefs say they need a disaster plan from national railroads. And they need more money from the state or another entity so they can get new equipment for dealing with these new circumstances. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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