Home Interviews THMG080 – Bakken Crude Derailment with Chad Hawkins

THMG080 – Bakken Crude Derailment with Chad Hawkins


In this episode, Bob and Mike discuss a Bakken crude derailment that took place in Oregon with Chad Hawkins.

Complete Show Notes

1:55 Introduction to Chad Hawkins

  • Spent 15 years in California in the fire service
  • Moved up to Oregon in 2015 and is the hazmat rail program coordinator for the Office of State Fire Marshal branch of the Oregon State Police
  • Hazmat technician and has done some tank car specialist training in association with the railroad
  • Teaches first responders and hazmat techs the ins and outs when it comes to railroad stuff and tank cars

2:30 Overview of the Run

  • Bakken crude oil train derailment – 16 cars derailed, 3 of which were involved with fire
  • 9 day-long incident from the fire starting, the environmental aspects, cleanup, and restoration
  • Actual train was up and running in around 3 days
  • Federal Railroad Administration did an investigation – verdict was that multiple bolts failed that were holding the track together
  • This caused the track to spread, which led to the derailment – the train was going around 26 mph at the time

4:10 Local Fire Department’s Response

  • 13 regional hazmat teams in the state of Oregon that are coordinated by the Fire Marshal’s office
  • They provide the equipment, training, response vehicles, and fully staffed fire departments ready to respond 24/7
  • The hazmat team in that area was around an hour away – local fire department responded first
  • They got the ERG, identified the placard, did a scene size-up, made the appropriate evacuations, and waited for the hazmat team to show up

6:00 The Hazmat Team Arrives

  • Each tank car was carrying 28,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil coming from North Dakota
  • Hazmat did some plume modeling and took some general area readings with their PID to look for benzenes and H2S coming off the crude oil – readings were slim to none unless you were in the hot zone
  • Determined where the water would go before they cooled the tanks that were on fire – largest river in the state (Columbia River) was around 300 yards away – they had to make sure this waterway was protected
  • Used booming, damming, and diking to protect against any runoff as they cooled the tanks

8:45 Putting Out the Fire

  • Large pool fire (50 feet x 50 feet) – middle car was on its side, so the gasket on the gangway burst open, which let the oil free flow into the pool
  • Union Pacific and Burlington Northern railroads provided them with 8 foam trailers – ARFFF foam trailers hold 250-1200 gallons
  • Didn’t apply foam until 10-11 hours into the incident because the product needed to cool first
  • Only took around 10 gallons of ARFFF foam to put out the fire on a 50,000-gallon spill
  • Took 28 fire departments from 2 different states – resources weren’t readily available, as it was in a rather remote part of Oregon
  • Pulled water out of the Columbia River in a shuttle operation – used 1.5-2 million gallons of water over 10 hours
  • A lot of these steel tankers fail, which means heat-induced tears – goal was to keep the steel cool, as well as putting out the flames
  • Exclusion zone was relatively small – evacuation radius was half a mile and the hot zone was 1/8 of a mile – it was actually a pretty stable incident
  • These were CPC 1232 tank cars, so they were jacketed – not just the standard DOT 111 without jackets
  • Both heat-induced tears and BLEVEs are violent ruptures, but BLEVEs usually deal with things under pressure, while heat-induced tears don’t deal with things under pressure
  • Failures with heat-induced tears are the metal getting hot and expanding and developing a blister that cracks – these go straight up into the air and create less damage than a BLEVE

19:00 Lessons Learned and Moving Forward in Oregon

  • Chad’s job has expanded – he not only works with hazmat teams, but also with firefighters and awareness- and operations-level folks
  • Talks to them about all of the different hazardous materials that are transported by rail
  • 3-tiered approach:
    • A 3-hour awareness class for local volunteer firefighters
    • An 8-hour operations-level class for those wanting more knowledge on tank cars, hazardous materials transported by rail, etc.
    • A 40-hour tank car specialist class for technicians that provides technical level expertise on tank cars – anatomy, pressure relief devices, utilization of kits, etc.

20:25 Lessons Learned from AARs

  • There were a lot of federal and state agencies involved at a variety of levels
  • Level of training and understanding has also changed to alleviate fears of oil and so-called “bomb” trains
  • Having the appropriate equipment – purchased 13 benzene-specific PIDs

22:45 Chad’s Recommended Resource for Hazmat by Rail Incidents

  • Free app called AskRail – gives you lots of information on the car you’re dealing with – get this installed beforehand, as there’s a short vetting process

25:05 Contacting Chad