I am the vice president of the Spokane Firefighters Union. We represent the 315 professional firefighters that work in the City of Spokane and Spokane Airport, who, in the event of a major oil train derailment in our city, would be the first on scene to attempt to mitigate the disaster.
As first responders, we take seriously our duty to protect the lives and property of our communities. That protection always starts with prevention. Preventing the rail companies from transporting the highly dangerous fuel through our communities is vital, because these incidents will happen again. We hope that it does not happen here in Spokane, where these trains rumble through our downtown core several times a day. But, in the words of John Norman, a giant in the fire service community, “Hope is not an effective strategy.”
So we train. And we prepare. But most importantly, we must prevent. And that is what I would call on our elected leaders to do today. Consider the threat to the citizens of our region in allowing these transports to continue.
In Mosier we learned that the safety measures implemented since oil trains killed 47 people in 2013 are not enough. Track inspections still missed a catastrophic problem. Upgraded tank cars still rupture, leak and explode. Reduced volatility crude still goes up in a fireball and then burns for hours. And the firefighting foam doesn’t work at the temperatures of these fires. There is no way to do safe oil trains. The risk of these projects cannot be mitigated.
It is time to say no to the Westway Terminal proposal that would gravely affect my community, so many rail communities and the people of Grays Harbor.
Spokane Firefighters Union
IAFF, Local 29 General Vice President