HMN- UPDATED STORY
Steele County officials sent out information Saturday afternoon about a controlled vent and burn that took place at the site of the train derailment in Ellendale. The event was under the management of Union Pacific Railroad and was coordinated with the Ellendale Fire Department, Steele County Emergency Management, Steele County Sheriff’s Office and the Rochester Chemical Assessment Team (CAT).
According to officials, railcars identified as carrying propane and butane were strategically punctured to release pressure and drain contents which were subsequently burned in a controlled setting. The fire has since burned out.
They also said removal of the hazardous materials will allow crews to able to access the site for safe clean up and repair of the site.
Throughout the entire incident, the safety of responders and the public remained the top priority.
The public is asked to avoid the immediate area and not go around any barricades to allow for safe incident investigation, clean up and repair.
The Rochester Fire Department said their HAZMAT Team has been released from the scene and is returning to Rochester.
Firefighters also sent out information on how experts and other crews working to resolve the incident came to a decision to carefully detonate some of the rail cars containing hazardous materials.
They said, “The technique involves small demolition charges applied to two locations on each car with an igniter circuit. A vent is created and then a drain which occurs within one second of each other. The flammable gas is then allowed to safely burn off.”
They also said the location of the incident, in the middle of a farm field a mile off the road, made it difficult for vehicles and prevented fire trucks from getting close enough to protect workers.
The railroad company flew in a specialty company that handles LP gas recoveries and are national experts in the “vent and burn” technique. This technique expedites the elimination of the hazard. What can often take days to pump off is eliminated in hours without the residual risk of uncontrolled explosion.
The Rochester Fire Department HAZMAT Team provided continuous monitoring of the site before the execution of the vent and burn to assure early warning to residents if conditions changed before the operation and is monitoring now to confirm the air remains safe.