By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — First responders from across the state are training for what they hope never happens — a major chemical or oil spill with a tanker train on fire.

Special funding from the state legislature created a training center at Camp Ripley.

The image of burning oil tankers in Casselton, North Dakota was a wake-up call.

They are simulating a truck-tanker car accident, which will soon get a whole lot worse.

(credit: CBS)

“The train car has got chlorine on it, and the truck has 55-gallon drums of what appears to be waste chemicals,” said Rick Luth of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Fire departments big and small are the railroads’ first line of defense.

“There’s no safer way to do it. That said, being prepared for anything is essential and that’s why we’re here today,” said Andy Cummings of Canadian Pacific.

To stop the threat, they would first fight the fire. Then a chemical team would climb the tanker and close the valve. It is a lot different than fighting a house fire.

“It’s a whole different set of hazards,” said Ron King of the St. Paul Chemical Assessment Team.

Hazards they are now prepared for should the unthinkable happen here.

“You try to train for the worst-case scenario, so that if anything like this does happen, they’re prepared,” Luth said.

There are 11 designated teams across the state trained in assessing chemical accidents that are capable of getting to any scene within a couple of hours.

Bill Hudson