Archbold, OH

Fire Dept. Trained For Tank Car Fires

Television screens throughout Northwest Ohio and the nation have been showing images of fireballs erupting into the sky from a derailed train near Arcadia, in Hancock County.

Andy Brodbeck, Archbold Fire Department chief, said sometimes, evacuating the area and allowing the fire to burn itself out is the best approach in such a situation.

“You never know what’s in those (railroad tank) cars,” Brodbeck said. The Derailment

Rudy Husband, a Norfolk Southern railroad spokesman, said the all-tank car train was on its way from Chicago, Ill., to North Carolina when 31 cars derailed at about 2:20 am, Sunday, Feb. 6.

The derailment occurred in Cass Township in Hancock County, north and east of Findlay.

Husband said 10 tank cars caught fire.

During the night, as flames heated the ethanol in the individual cars, the vapor inside expanded to the point that the tank cars burst, resulting in explosions and large fireballs climbing skyward.

Some of the explosions were caught on video, which found its way into television reports and onto the Internet.

Hancock county officials evacuated residents within two miles of the crash site.

Officials were concerned about a nearby fertilizer plant where anhydrous ammonia was stored, but it was not threatened.

By Monday morning, most of the fire had burned out, reports say. Special Training

Brodbeck said about a year ago, AFD firefighters took a special training course on train derailments and how to handle them.

Sometimes, he said, there’s not much firefighters can do other than evacuate the area, keep people clear, stay away, and allow the fire to run its course.

This runs counter to the tradition of the fire service, which calls on firefighters to dash into fires and put them out.

“You don’t want people to get hurt. As hard as it is, you have to assess the situation before you make a wrong decision,” he said.

“You have to keep people on the department all on the same page,” he said.

If a train conductor or engineer can’t be found right away, Brodbeck said AFD has special telephone numbers to contract the railroad. Any time of day or night, firefighters can call, provide some basic information, and get the train’s manifest– a list of what’s on board each car.

Justin Thompson, Fulton County Emergency Management Agency director, said he will travel to Hancock County to meet with Garry Valentine, that county’s emergency management agency director, to discuss the incident, and any lessons learned.

“If I didn’t have things going on, I would have gone down there and learned firsthand,” he said. Not Through Archbold

Norfolk Southern tracks through Archbold are some of the busiest in the nation, connecting Chicago with Buffalo, N.Y.

Husband said the train that derailed did not pass through Archbold.

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