Minn. not ready to handle oil train accidents, fire officials say

Local fire officials in Minnesota say the state is not prepared to handle the derailment of trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota.

The House Transportation Finance Committee held a hearing Thursday in response to last year's derailment of an oil-bearing train near Casselton, N.D.

If such a derailment happened closer to a town, the result would be catastrophic, said Minnesota Professional Firefighters union President Chris Parsons.

"Our state's local departments simply don't have the proper training and equipment to effectively mitigate massive crude oil fires caused by train derailments in populated areas," Parsons said. "The increase in crude oil passing through our state within feet of homes and neighborhoods has greatly increased the likelihood of loss of life and property on a massive scale."

The amount of crude oil traveling through Minnesota by train has more than quadrupled over the last five years. Most of the trains pass through the Twin Cities metro area.

Most Minnesota fire departments are staffed by volunteer firefighters.

The state ranks 44th in per capita fire spending, according to the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence.

While there were no casualties from the Casselton derailment, a train carrying crude oil in Quebec killed 47 people last year when it derailed and exploded, leveling part of a town.

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