Texas experts: States need “SWAT-like teams” to put out oil train fires

States are going to need SWAT-like teams if they want to put out the huge fires that can start when trains carrying crude oil derail, say two men who want to launch a “specialty fire department” in Pennsylvania funded by private and public dollars.

Recent derailments have revealed not only safety vulnerabilities, but a “yawning gap in emergency response,” wrote McClatchy Washington Bureau reporter Curtis Tate in the June 17 article – echoing the findings of our Center’s ongoing investigation into the lack of preparedness for such incidents in Maine.

The two men, Bob Andrews and Sam Goldwater, are both affiliated with the San-Antonio based Bob Andrews Group, and told McClatchy Washington Bureau they’ve gotten a “favorable response” from state and federal officials they’ve approached.

“It is not fair for the community, at the local or state level, to create an environment where well-meaning volunteers will feel compelled to commit themselves to conducting highly-hazardous operations, that they are neither trained, nor equipped to perform,” Andrews testified in March before a Pennsylvania House of Representatives committee.

The solution so far has been expanding training for firefighters and other first responders – and an International Association of Fire Fighters spokesman told McClatchy he thinks that’s still the best approach. “It is the duty of government to provide the resources needed for hazmat response,” he said, “and this public safety discussion should not be driven by profit motive.”

The pair told McClatchy if anyone wanted to make lots of money, “this is not the thing to do.” They said expanding training for emergency personnel isn’t enough when firefighters are facing 20 percent attrition rates, increased call volumes and difficulty balancing full-time jobs with training.

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