Lac-Megantic runaway train and derailment investigation summary (Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:05:00 +0000)

This summary of the Transportation SafetyBoard of Canada's (TSB) Railway Investigation Report R13D0054 contains a description of the accident,along with an overview of the analysis and findings, the safety action taken to date, five key recommendations, and what more needs to be done to help ensure an accident like this does not happen again.

The accident

On the evening of July 5, 2013, atabout 10:50 p.m., a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA)train arrived at Nantes, Quebec, carrying 7.7million litres of petroleum crude oil in 72 Class 111 tankcars. Originating in New Town, North Dakota, these were bound for Saint John, New Brunswick.

In keeping with the railway's practice,after arriving in Nantes, the locomotive engineer (engineer) parked the train on a descending grade on the main track. A replacement engineer was scheduled to continue the trip east in the morning.

The engineer applied hand brakes on all five locomotives and two other cars, and shut down all but the lead locomotive. Railway rulesrequire hand brakes alone be capable of holding a train, and this must be verified bya test. That night, however, the locomotive air brakes were left on during the test, meaning the train was being held by a combination of hand brakes and air brakes. This gave the false impression that the hand brakes alone would hold the train.

The engineer then contactedthe rail traffic controller in Farnham, Quebec,to advise the train was secure. Next, the engineer contacted the rail traffic controllerin Bangor, Maine, whocontrols movements forthe crews east of Lac-Megantic. During this conversation, the engineer indicated that the lead locomotive had experienced mechanical difficulties throughout the trip, and that excessive black and white smoke was coming from its smoke stack. Because theyexpected the smoke to settle, it was agreed to leave the train as it was and deal with the situation the next morning.

Shortly after the engineer left, the Nantes Fire Department responded to a 911call reporting a fire onthe train. After shutting off the locomotive's fuel supply, the firefighters moved the electricalbreakers inside the cab to the off position, in keeping with railway instructions. They then met with an MMA employee, a track foreman who had been dispatched to thescene but who did not have a locomotive operations background.

Once the fire was extinguished, the firefighters and the track foreman discussed the train's condition with the rail traffic controller in Farnham, and departed soon afterward.

With all the locomotives shut down, the air compressor no longer supplied air to the air brake system. As air leaked fromthe brake system, the main air reservoirs were slowly depleted, gradually reducing the effectiveness of the locomotive air brakes. Just before 1 a.m., the air pressure had dropped to a point where the combination of locomotive air brakes and hand brakes could no longer hold the train, and it began to roll downhill toward Lac-Megantic, just over seven miles away.

As it moved down the grade, the train picked up speed,reaching a top speed of 65 mph. It derailed near the centre of the town at about 1:15 a.m.

Aftermath and emergency response

Almost all of the 63 derailed tank cars were damaged, and many had large breaches. About six million litres of petroleumcrude oil was quickly released. The fire began almost immediately, and the ensuing blaze and explosions left 47 peopledead. Another 2000 people were forced from their homes, and much of the downtown core was destroyed.

The pile-up of tank cars, combined with the large volume of burning petroleum crude oil, made the firefighters' job extremelydifficult. Despite the challenges of a large  emergency, the response was wellcoordinated, and the fire departments effectively protected the site and ensured public safetyafter the derailment. 

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Lava Lake Fire 100% Contained - Trails Re-open (Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:22:00 +0000)

Media Contact: Marna Daley: 406-570-5526
Immediate Release: August 8, 2014

Custer Gallatin National Forests
10 E Babcock, Bozeman, MT 59715

Lava Lake Fire 100% Contained - Trails Re-open                                                                                        
Bozeman, MT - Crews made considerable progress yesterday on the Lava Lake Fire and were able to completely contain the blaze.  The two trails that were closed because of firefighting efforts re-open today to public use.
After yesterday's containment, firefighting crews were able to hike out and the helicopters were released.   Firefighters will continue monitoring the fire. 
The Lava Lake Trail (Forest Service Trail #77) and the trail from Table Mountain that drops down to Lava Lake (Forest Service Trail #445) are open to public use today.           
Fire Name: Lava Lake Fire
Date Detected:  August 2, 2014                                                       
Cause:  Lightning                                                      
Location:  Spanish Peaks portion of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, about one mile north of Lava Lake, between Bozeman and Big Sky, Montana, west of Highway 191 near Cascade Creek.
Current Size: 7 acres; 100% contained               
Resources Assigned:  Fire is in monitoring status 

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Lava Lake Fire Continues Burning North of Lava Lake (Mon, 04 Aug 2014 17:09:00 +0000)

Media Contact: Marna Daley: 406-570-5526 Marianne Baumberger: 406-579-3732 Immediate Release: August 4, 2014 1100 Custer Gallatin National Forests 10 E Babcock, Bozeman, MT 59715 Web: or Lava Lake Fire Continues Burning North of Lava Lake Bozeman, MT – The lightning caused Lava Lake Fire continues to burn about one mile north of Lava Lake. The now five acre fire is burning in heavy, continuous fuels in a rock outcropping in severely steep and rugged terrain. Two aircraft will be working on the fire today to cool it down and there are four helicopter rapellers that continue working the fire from the ground. The rappellers are from the Gallatin National Forest. Firefighter safety, given the lack of openings in the vegetation and the steep, rugged terrain that is inaccessible in some areas is the most important priority for managing this fire. The popular Lava Lake Trail (Forest Service Trail #77) and the trail from Table Mountain that drops down to Lava Lake (Forest Service Trail #445) will close to public use today, August 4 at 12:00 p.m. to address public safety concerns while the aircraft is working in the area.

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