NFPCA Urged to Develop LPG Fire Procedures
Seven cars of a Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad train derailed near Des Moines, Iowa, on September 1,1975. Eleven of the cars contained liquefied petroleum gas and during the derailment some of the cars were punctured and the LPG escaped and ignited. Ten of the cars were lost and three persons were injured.
Operations were the same as those used by fire fighters who were seriously burned during other accidents investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. The only difference was the timing of the explosions. They occurred as fire fighters were approaching the wreckage and thus were not caught in the explosion.
In reporting to the Secretary of Commerce, the safety board said that nothing these fire fighters could have done with conventional fire fighting methods would have prevented the explosions in this accident. The safety board charged that the knowledge acquired from previous accidents is not being effectively disseminated to fire fighters who need it. This condition exists despite the efforts of the safety board, the National Fire Protection Association, the Department of Transportation, and the railroads to communicate these accident experiences to fire service personnel.
In this particular incident, the rail line reopening was delayed for over four days until the escaping LPG from the damaged tank cars burned off. The adjacent industrial area was also evacuated for most of this time. Actions to eliminate the danger sooner were not undertaken because experts disagreed on the methods that should be used to safely handle fires of this kind.
The board said that until these conflicting opinions are reconciled, fire fighters cannot be expected to act safely and decisively to minimize the duration of the dangers in such accidents.
The NTSB stated that the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration could contribute to safer outcomes in these emergencies by giving fire service officers constructive guidance for their decisionmaking. It therefore recommended that the NFPCA develop fire fighting procedures which assure safety and minimize the duration of fire danger in accidents involving LPG and other compressed flammable gases in tank cars and that it establish communication with all fire services and disseminate to them specific procedures for the handling of these emergencies.