ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – This week’s oil tanker train crash that killed at least 15 people in Quebec has the St. Louis Fire Department wondering if it could happen here.

Every day, trainloads of flammable and hazardous cargo roll through a rail yard just south of downtown.

The fire department meets regularly with the railroad industry to discuss firefighting concerns but Chief Dennis Jenkerson says there is not a daily update from the railroads on exactly what hazardous cargo is being shipped through each day. Instead, rail cars are marked on the outside to indicate what is inside.

“Any type of shipment that is coming through the city that has an usually high level of hazard, we are notified,” St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says. “Whether it’s a type of chemical or maybe some type of radiation shipment, we do get notified. But on a daily basis there is quite a few shipments over the rail lines that have similar type of rail cars that were involved in the Canadian accident.”

Jenkerson says if a tanker train were to crash, the city has abundant water and foam supplies. They could also obtain more foam from Lambert Airport and oil refineries in the Metro East.

What worries him, he says, is the industry trend of stringing 60 to 80 oil tankers cars on one train, compared to just two or three in earlier decades.

“The problem with those types of fires is normally you have one tank car burning and it heats up the other tank car. Then it causes the pressure to build up inside the other tank car, then that tank car ruptures, and it’s just a domino effect,” he explains.


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