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Hazardous material travelling by rail through Calgary on the rise

Calgary's recently retired fire chief says people might be surprised to learn how much hazardous material is going through the city by rail, and it's expected to increase.

Calgary sending 6 firefighters to Colorado for hazardous train derailment, chemical leak training

Eight railcars carrying flammable liquids came off the tracks last September at the CP Alyth Yard in Calgary’s southeast. Recently retired fire chief Bruce Burrell says Calgarians would be surprised how much hazardous material travels through the centre of the city. (CBC)

Calgary's recently retired fire chief says people might be surprised to learn how much more hazardous material is going through the city by rail.

Bruce Burrell says it's not just oil, but includes a variety of materials like chlorine, molten sulphur and ammonia.

He says there's been a substantial increase in the past couple of years, and the department has boosted its training to prepare for any problems.

"As rail traffic increases, there's probably an increased frequency of the probability or possibility of something bad happening," said Burrell.

Calgary is sending six firefighters to a special centre in Colorado this year that trains first responders on how to handle hazardous train derailments and chemical leaks. 

Meanwhile, one of Canada's largest rail operator says it's also better prepared for problems.

Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway says it has increased its track inspections as well as its training and emergency response measures since the disastrous derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que., last year.

"We've increased our incident response capabilities across our network though the strategic positioning of additional fire suppression equipment, materials and having hazmat specialists to go along with our contract network of environment experts that our rail already has in place," said CP spokesperson Ed Greenberg.

He says more dangerous goods are being shipped in order to meet consumer and market demand for those products.

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