VERNON (KFDX/KJTL) — A train derailment in Oklaunion, just over eight miles outside Vernon, forced a lot of firsts for Vernon Fire Department.
“I’ve been here for 26 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Vernon Fire Chief Chris Cook said.
“In a situation like that, the only thing you can do is stay calm and revert back to your training,” Vernon Assistant Fire Chief Aaron Crumbley said.
A Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight hauling 98 railcars carrying ethanol derailed, forcing 28 cars to detach with 25 of those set ablaze not too far from Highway 287.
“I talked to some of my buddies that have been here longer than that, that have retired and they had never seen anything like it,” Cook said. “So, yes it was quite the scene when I showed up.”
Many area fire departments assisted Vernon, including Harrold, Electra, Wichita Falls, Sheppard Air Force Base, Iowa Park, Wichita West, Kamay, and Jolly.
And behind the scenes, the city of Vernon and Mayor Pam Gosline were also working to ensure those on the front lines had all they needed.
“I made three phone calls and within three minutes we had water and ice and Gatorade donated from United and called Braums and said, ‘can you get 50 hamburgers made?’ and they said ‘give us 20 minutes,” Gosline said.
Plus almost a dozen other entities on scene, from the Wilbarger County Sheriffs and Emergency Management Offices – to Clay County, TxDOT, and DPS, all assisting while BNSF officials traveled from Fort Worth to take over.
“In the fire service we say that we train for the worst and hope for the best, we always try to prepare for the worst possible circumstance and when the time comes you revert back to your training and you rely on the experts you can call and tell you what needs to be done and help you out,” Crumbley said.
Something Crumbley and Cook said was vital to containing the scene.
“Everybody came together and we all worked together and that was the only way that it was going to get resolved and then when Burlington Northern came in it just all seemed to go together and it just all worked out,” Cook said.
Taking an unforeseen challenge and making sure there were no injuries, or flames spreading.
“I’ve always had confidence in our guys and gal, they do a good job, they protect the citizens of Vernon and Wilbarger County all the time and when a situation like this occurs, you don’t expect anything like this to happen but you always have to worry about it in the back of your mind that it could happen so it just all worked out and I’m very proud of everybody and appreciative of everybody involved,” Cook said.
BNSF will continue cleanup and its investigation along the railroad as more of the scene is cleared, we’ll have all updates right here online as they become available!