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What protocols were in place? Politicians want answers after fire at Port Coquitlam rail yard

Last Updated Jan 23, 2018 at 5:03 pm PDT

A tanker truck carrying ethanol hit a train in the area of Lougheed Highway and Oxford Street in Port Coquitlam on January 23, 2018 (Photo courtesy @CheckerIan via Twitter)
Summary

Video footage showed large flames after tanker truck carrying ethanol hit a train

BC's public safety minister wants to know what protocols were in place ahead of massive fire at rail yard

PORT COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – After a massive fire at a Port Coquitlam rail yard last night, politicians in that community want to know how it happened.

Video footage showed large flames after a tanker truck carrying ethanol hit a train in the area of Lougheed Highway and Oxford Street. Witnesses reported explosions that could be seen from the Pitt River Bridge.

Our province’s public safety minister has serious concerns.

Mike Farnworth, who is also the MLA for Port Coquitlam, says it’s important to understand what led up to the fire.

“I’m very concerned about what happened. This is a huge railway yard. All kinds of goods move through it in a very densely populated community. So, there are a lot of questions… What protocols were in place to ensure that something like this couldn’t happen [and] if they were in there, why weren’t they followed?”

Because of the hazardous materials at the rail yard, CP rushed a foam truck in from Abbotsford to help with Monday’s fire.

But Port Coquitlam Fire Chief Nick Delmonico says it wasn’t very useful in this particular case.

“We would prefer something more localized,” Delmonico said when asked about whether he’d like to see a foam truck in his community, but he says the truck used to be even further away.

“I know [CP is] dealing with a fairly large geographic area, so how they place their resources is kind of up to them. They did move it here based on some concerns expressed by our council a year or two ago to them. There was nothing [previously] even in Abbotsford, so the fact they were able to staff some resources there was a positive sign they were willing to work with us.”

But on Monday evening, Delmonico says the truck was of little value. It had limited foam capacity and it wasn’t able to hit the fire from a safe distance.

“We just used our own foam and used our own hoses and pumps to actually deliver the foam instead, instead of using the truck that they brought,” says Delmonico. “It was not much help. It did bring some contracted hazmat crews in that were very helpful. They had very good knowledge on hazmat incidents.”

Mike Farnworth says he’ll be looking at whether Port Coquitlam should have its own piece of equipment.

The city’s mayor, Greg Moore, also has questions about the cause but was satisfied with the response.

“Last night, when an event did occur, we could see, and I think the public could see, the coordination that occurred almost immediately because of the practice that we’ve been doing.”

Moore tweeted photos from the site today, showing the area has been reduced to a charred mess.

No one was hurt in the fire. The RCMP had evacuated an area within an 800 metre radius of the site, but CP Rail says no toxic materials were being carried.