SEDRO-WOOLLEY — At the Sedro-Woolley Fire Department’s training facility, firefighters can practice putting out fires that have erupted in homes and gas stations, practice their rescue techniques and learn to extricate victims stuck in a vehicle after a crash.
Soon, firefighters will also be able to train for what may happen if one of the many oil tank cars that run through Skagit County every day should overturn and catch fire.
Thanks to a donation from BNSF Railway, the department now has a 64,000-pound oil tank car it will soon be able to set on fire for practice.
“As we know, accidents happen,” Sedro-Woolley Fire Department Assistant Chief Todd Olson said. “These accidents can be quite devastating.”
BNSF is required to provide training for firefighters, but most of it occurs at the Security and Emergency Response Training Center in Pueblo, Colorado, Olson said.
Sedro-Woolley is the only department in the state to have its own oil tank car, Olson said. Even the state fire academy in North Bend doesn’t have one, he said.
“Now, more regionally, we can do some of the same training here,” Olson said.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., who sits on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on Tuesday visited the training facility to learn how the department is utilizing its new prop.
As communities such as Skagit County around the country have expressed concerns about the transportation of Bakken crude oil by rail across the United States, Larsen said safety has been a priority of his.
“That has been an issue I’ve been concerned with for a while,” Larsen said. “The ability to respond to an accident has been a priority of mine to help our local firefighters to train to respond to that.”
Having a real training opportunity locally, rather than having to send firefighters out of state, is a benefit to the departments and the communities they serve, he said.
The Sedro-Woolley Fire Department wants to make training with the oil tank car — and its variety of other props — available to other departments in the region, particularly because of how regularly local departments work together, Olson said.
“If we work together, we should train together,” he said.