first_imgWASHINGTON — Emergency response officials told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday that big cities and small towns alike are unprepared for a disaster on the scale of an oil train derailment and fire last year in Quebec that destroyed part of a town and killed 47 people.The hearing was only the second on Capitol Hill in recent weeks that sought the perspective of local officials. The federal government has regulatory authority over rail shipments, but the burden of emergency response ultimately falls on local agencies.The specter of a large-scale crude oil fire and spill has hung over communities across the country since July’s crash in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where firefighters were simply outmatched by the scale and ferocity of the blaze.“We can handle everyday emergencies,” said Timothy Pellerin, the fire chief of Rangeley, Maine, whose department assisted in the Quebec derailment. “We’re not prepared for a major disaster like this.”Urban fire departments may have more resources and personnel, but the scale of the threat is a challenge for them too.Barb Graff, director of the Seattle Office of Emergency Management, said three loaded crude oil trains a week pass through the city but that the frequency could increase to three per day when refineries are able to receive them.last_img

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