The Fire Department recently underwent training with Billerica-based Pan Am Railways to ensure residents’ safety regarding the operation of the freight train that runs through Forge Village, Graniteville, and across Depot Street.
The freight train is a commercial means of transportation for businesses, carrying such products as Poland Springs water and paper from the mills in Waterville, Maine, as well as bio-hazardous chemicals, according to Deputy Fire Chief Dan Britko.
“A lot of the boxcars have paper. Building materials in the form of wood, two by fours…you see a lot of sheet rock,” he said. “You do see liquid propane, and some hazardous chemicals and what not. But a lot of it is just regular commodities that are used every day.”
The drill took place in the Graniteville section of town at the end of Second Street, said Britko,
“It was a nice spot for us to have easy access to the tracks,” he said.
Staged was a scene in which there was an unknown odor and an unconscious conductor inside the cab of the locomotive.
“…this gentleman was rather large so they tried to remove him out the door of the cab of the locomotive only to find he wouldn’t fit with any of our equipment,” Britko said. The firefighters wore air packs to protect themselves from a potentially dangerous airborne chemical, as well as personal protective gear.
A second rescue team devised a plan to remove the conductor on a Stokes stretcher through the window of the cab and slide him down a ladder. The plan worked and the firefighters completed their drill successfully.
In April, Pan Am Railways officials ran a classroom instructional session.
“We run four shifts as do most fire departments,” Britko said. “The Pan Am safety division came out and met on four different occasions to make sure each member of the department received the classroom training where we went over safety things that are put in place from the Federal Railroad Administration to how to secure a train if we ever had to.”
The passing freight trains do not present any more of a safety concern for the town than the traffic on the local highways, Britko said.
“They’re regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration and the products that are shipped over the rail lines are very similar products that are shipped through (Interstate) 495 and Route 3 every day of the week.”