EDMONTON- CN Rail is implementing a controlled burn of the propane in the derailed cars at the accident site in Gainford, AB. The decision was made Sunday evening, by members of CN, Alberta Environment, Transport Canada and Parkland County.
“The parties agree that this is the safest and best and most effective way to allow citizens to return to to their residences as quickly and as safely as possible,” said CN Rail spokesperson Warren Chandler.
Residents in the hamlet- located about 80 kilometres west of Edmonton- were forced from their homes early Saturday morning after 13 cars on a CN freight train carrying a cargo of oil and liquefied petroleum gas derailed and burst into flames.
Chandler says people in the area should expect to see large plumes of black smoke while this controlled burn is being conducted. It is not known how long this process this may take, Chandler added.
Watch: Controlled burn being conducted at Gainford derailment site
“Authorities will continue to monitor the air quality throughout this process. Alberta Environment is taking the lead on that front,” Chandler explained. “When it is safe to do so, crews will go back and inspect the site.”
Parkland County officials say it could be up to two days before residents near Gainford, Alberta are allowed to return to their homes.
Sunday morning, one tanker car had finally burnt out as two other cars continued to burn off liquefied petroleum gas.
“As long as we have the fire burning, the gas that’s being expelled from the pressure vessels, we know where that gas is and it’s safer to just let it flare until the product is consumed,” Phelan explained.
Overnight, CN crews moved four derailed crude oil tank cars away from the derailed propane cars. Louis-Antoine Paquin, a spokesperson with CN, said those four cars were intact, with no leaks or loss of product.
Watch: The Global 1 news helicopter flies above the scene in Gainford, AB Sunday
Investigators from CN, the Transportation Safety Board and RCMP are trying to piece together exactly what happened, but they haven’t been able to get to the scene.
“During the process here, we’re going to really examine how the train was being handled, which is something we do on every investigation. We look at all the equipment, the rail cars, if they were performing well, we look at the history of the rail cars, were they maintained properly,” said James Carmichael with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
CN Rail says the track was last inspected Thursday and no problems were found. The train, which was travelling to Vancouver from Edmonton, was also inspected before it left Friday night.
Despite this incident, and two others over the past month, CN continues to defend its safety record.
“CN’s safety record has been very solid, in terms of its main track derailments last year, they were the lowest on record,” said company spokesman Mark Hallman.
“The vast majority of commodities, such as dangerous commodities, that are transported from origin to destination, more than 99 per cent reach destination without any accidental release.”
Highway 16 continues to be closed at Range Road 50 with traffic being rerouted north along highway 765, westbound on 633, and returning southbound on hwy 757. This road closure will continue until further notice.
Approximate map of Highway closure:
A local state of emergency remains in place for Gainford. Parkland County officials said Sunday morning evacuees will likely be out of their homes for at least another 24 to 48 hours. The Reception Centre at the Entwistle Community Hall is still open for displaced residents.
The following pictures were provided by Parkland County:
Watch: Officials address the media Saturday night