Local News

January 26, 2014

Training for trouble

Evacuation is top priority in railroad accident, North Country officials say

PLATTSBURGH — Lisa Cumm still remembers the screeching that resonated through her home on the morning of May 26, 2007.

That Memorial Day weekend, 11 of the 33 cars of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. Freighter 251 derailed and squealed as they came to a stop along the railroad that runs beside her home in Essex.

“I came outside — I was drinking my coffee on the porch — and, all of a sudden, I saw all these (emergency vehicles) just flying down my driveway,” Cumm said.

They would be joined by members of the county HazMat response team when it was discovered that two of the toppled tankers contained chemicals: methylene chloride, a paint remover, and methyl bromide, an insecticide.

Though Cumm said it was later confirmed there had been no chemical leakage, her family and others in the area were still temporarily evacuated from their homes as a precaution.


Toxic chemicals are just a few of the possible dangers and complications that local responders face when handling a train derailment.

Over the past year, several tragic freight-train derailments sparked a national conversation on the safety of the communities that trains pass through.

Last July, a freight train hauling Bakken crude oil rolled off the tracks near Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and exploded, killing 42 people and leveling more than 30 buildings.

In November, another freight train derailed near Aliceville, Ala. No injuries were reported, but the fire caused by the explosion of the train’s crude-oil shipments took nearly 24 hours to burn out.


Essex County Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish said one of the county’s best resources when confronting a derailment is a map of the Essex County railway system developed by Emergency Services Battalion Coordinator Dan Benoit and distributed to county fire departments.

Quickly identifying and securing the area around a derailment fire is often more important than fighting the fire itself, Benoit said.

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