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Emergency plan; Officials have general one for incidents like Casselton train derailment

John M. Steiner / The Sun With trains hauling cargo like Bakken crude oil, coal and other hazardous material through Jamestown each day, local emergency response agencies have a general plan in place to respond to any incident that could arise from a train crash.

Jamestown Fire Chief Jim Ruether, along with Stutsman County Emergency Manager Jerry Bergquist and Jamestown Chief of Police Scott Edinger, said a train crash near Casselton Monday will probably lead to more hazardous material and locomotive training.

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BNSF officials have worked with the Jamestown Fire Department and Jamestown Rural Fire Department in training on locomotives and what to do in the event of a train derailment, both in Jamestown and out in the rural areas, Ruether said.

Ruether said he wasn’t aware there had been a train derailment west of Casselton Monday afternoon until he got a call from the Fargo Fire Department.

“We were put on alert by (the) Fargo Fire (Department) about 20 minutes after the first calls went out related to the derailment,” Ruether said. The Jamestown Fire Department is the secondary response unit for any hazardous material event for southeast North Dakota, he said. No Jamestown firefighters were involved in the Casselton derailment.

According to the Forum News Service, at about 2:10 p.m. Monday a westbound grain train derailed on rail tracks about one mile west of Casselton and crashed into an eastbound train pulling 106 oil tanker cars. Eighteen of those oil tanker cars derailed from the train and 10 caught on fire. There were no injuries from the crash, but most of Casselton was evacuated as the fire from the wreck continued to burn for hours after the crash.

With multiple rail lines running through Jamestown, Ruether said there is always a concern about what would happen if a train derailed in town. Considering that both the JFD and JRFD fire stations sit less than 200 feet away from the rail lines, Ruether said the possibility exists that if a train derailed at the right location, both fire stations could be severely damaged.

“Most of our equipment is in this station, same for the rural department,” he said.

Ruether, Bergquist and Edinger said there is an overall emergency response plan the local emergency response and law enforcement agencies follow in any emergency situation.

Ruether said there is no way agencies could come up with response plans for every conceivable situation.

“Can you plan for everything? You can plan for the basics,” he said. “Our goal is to protect life and environment first.”

Bergquist said there is an overall emergency management plan for Stutsman County. It basically shows what each agency’s responsibility is in the event of an emergency. Fire and rescue departments in the more rural areas of Stutsman County like Medina and Woodworth are part of the plan as well.

“We don’t have different plans for different kinds of emergencies,” he said.

Edinger said the role of the Jamestown Police Department in a situation like the Casselton derailment would be to make sure the emergency vehicle, personnel and supplies are getting to the accident scene, and keeping everyone else out.

As to any emergency response plan, Edinger said what role the department plays depends on the circumstance.

“If an evacuation was required, (like in Casselton), we have different methods to contact the public,” he said. Those methods include getting the word out through local media, interrupting television broadcasts, going door-to-door and using emergency alert systems, like Code Red.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454