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Onalaska firemen headed to “Crude by Rail” workshop



Three-day training happens in Colorado

Three Onalaska firefighters are headed to Colorado to get emergency response training.

The three will be trained to handle fires and explosions involving crude oil trains. 

Some have already been through the ‘Crude By Rail’ workshop, including Jeremy Southworth.

He said Onalaska could be quite vulnerable to a rail accident, because most of the city lies on one side of a busy train track along the Black River.

“Our weather and wind comes out of the west and our entire town is to the east of the railroad tracks,” warns Southworth.

Southworth added Onalaska fire crews have not been called to recent derailments in the region, such as the one last fall at Alma, Wis., but they do have access to an emergency trailer belonging to the La Crosse Fire Dept., which is equipped to handle chemical fires.

The training happens next month in Pueblo, Colo.. It’s a three-day course that includes mock response to full-size rail cars that are set on fire. 

The instructors show emergency responders what to look for on freight trains, according to Southworth

“They go over identification of the different types of rail cars,” Southworth said, “different key points on the rail cars, such as the brakes, the different parts, the valving, key shutoffs on them.”

Last week, the Onalaska city council approved the out-of-state travel for those firemen.

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