New Brunswick

CN will train Moncton firefighters to deal with derailments

CN Rail plans to bring a special tanker car to Moncton this fall to train firefighters on battling fires caused by derailments, says company spokesman Jim Feeney.

Rail company offering training as outreach following Lac-Mégantic disaster, Plaster Rock fire

CN Rail plans to bring a special tanker car to Moncton this fall to train firefighters to battle fires caused by derailments, says company spokesman Jim Feeney.

Company officials also met with the mayor of Edmundston on Tuesday and agreed to discuss similar training opportunities for firefighters in northwestern New Brunswick, he said.

A huge fireball filled the sky after a team of experts used explosive devices to conduct a vent and burn at a CN Rail derailment near Plaster Rock in January. (CBC)
​The special car helps firefighters understand what they will encounter in the event of a fire by showing how pressurized tanker cars are built and what safety mechanisms they contain, said Feeney.

It is only such car CN owns in Canada, he said.

CN hopes to offer the training course to as many municipal firefighters in the Maritimes as possible, Feeney said.

The company is making the offer as part of its outreach program following rail disasters in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July and two derailments in New Brunswick last month in Wapske, near Plaster Rock, and the Edmundston-area parish of Saint-Basile.

Moncton fire chief lobbied for training

​Moncton Fire Chief Eric Arsenault believes the risk of a derailment in Moncton is very low, but he had lobbied CN for the training and is keen to take advantage of the opportunity.

"It is definitely my mission and my interest to get these [specialized tanker] cars here in Moncton this year so that all of our firefighters can get hands-on training with CN staff," Arsenault said.

The Moncton Fire Department has 100 members.

The derailments in Lac-Mégantic and Plaster Rock both involved tanker cars carrying crude oil to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John. Massive fires resulted in both derailments. In Lac-Mégantic, 47 residents were killed when the derailment happened at night in the middle of the town.

Arsenault says trains carrying crude or other petroleum products destined for the Saint John refinery don't enter Moncton. He says those cars are rerouted to Saint John at the CN yard just west of Moncton.

Most of the trains going through Moncton are carrying containers to the port in Halifax, he said. Those trains are travelling at 50 kilometres per hour within city limits.

"In my opinion there is a greater risk of a collision with a vehicle at a level crossing than a derailment in the city of Moncton," said Arsenault.

The last derailment in Moncton was in 1995 and involved a freight train losing some cars behind the Via Rail station, said Arsenault.

On Jan. 7, a train hauling crude oil, propane, butane and other goods derailed in Wapske, near Plaster Rock, sparking a massive fire that burned for days and forced the evacuation of about 50 homes in the area.

On Jan. 26, a train jumped the tracks in the Edmundston-area parish of Saint-Basile in the northwestern part of the province.

With files from The Canadian Press