Could tanker-car fire happen in Roseville?

Fire department and Union Pacific work together to prevent and respond to incidents
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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The Lincoln tanker car fire last week that resulted in the evacuation of 4,800 homes and businesses over the two-day duration of the fire has some residents wondering if a similar incident could occur in Roseville. “Yes, it could happen here in Roseville,” said Jeff Carman, Roseville’s assistant fire chief of operations. “We respond to lots of leaks in the rail yard, probably two to three a month, but most are considered ‘maintenance’ leaks.” These leaks might be very small or simply require tightening a cap or replacing a seal. Or the material leaking is not dangerous, he said. “We work very closely with (Union Pacific) hazmat personnel, which is one of the things that brought the Lincoln incident to a successful closure,” Carman said. “We have a relationship with UP, they trust us and we trust them. In the case in Lincoln, even though they were not responsible for the tank car, they played a major role in getting resources to the scene to mitigate the incident as soon as possible.” The railroad is an integral part of Roseville’s history and a vital part of its presence. The town developed as the railroad did in the late-1800s and now the Union Pacific J.R. Davis Yard in Roseville is the largest rail facility on the west coast. The Lincoln fire occurred on a spur line off the Union Pacific tracks owned by the Gladding-McBean business in that city. The spur line provided propane business Northern Propane Energy with a means to offload the gas from a 29,000 gallon rail tanker car to holding tanks. Because the incident did not take place on Union Pacific property and tank cars are not owned by the company, Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said he could not comment on the Lincoln incident. Hunt said rail lines are required by federal law to ship hazardous materials. Those materials include fertilizer used in farming and chemicals used to sanitize water supplies. In large amounts, many can be potentially explosive, he said. “It’s safer to ship hazardous materials by rail than any other way and we have an excellent safety record,” Hunt said. “We’re shipping things the American economy has come to count on.” He told the Press Tribune that Union Pacific has measures in place to safely ship commodities like propane. Because there are so many railcars traveling through Roseville and being switched in the local yard, leaks and derailments will inevitably occur, Carman said. “The Roseville Fire Department spends a lot of their time training their hazmat team for just this kind of incident,” Carman said. “Our team is a Type I team, which is the highest trained team recognized by both the state and federal governments. We were one of the first in (California) to achieve that recognition, and because of that certification our citizens are safer.” He said in case of a serious incident, Roseville would request assistance from Sac Metro Fire and Sac City Fire, who also have Type 1 hazmat teams. Gus Thompson contributed to this report. Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.