A hazardous materials spill from a train car is a scenario Asheville’s firefighters hope never happens. But if it does, the department’s HAZMAT team knows how to handle it. The team, alongside teams from Charlotte, Fayetteville and Greensboro, put their skill to the test during a May 12 drill in the Norfolk Southern rail yard off of Meadows Road.
Using a multi-car Safety Train sponsored by CSX and hosted onsite by Norfolk Southern, the teams participated in three simulated emergencies involving the collision of a train carrying flammable fuel.
The opportunity for the regional response teams to work together is invaluable, said Asheville Fire and Rescue’s Emergency Management Specialist Abby Moore. “Looking at interoperability and cross training puts a face on a team,” Moore says. “Then we are not foreign to each other.”
Asheville's HAZMAT Hosts Regional Response Teams in Rail Drill
There are 17 emergency response teams in North Carolina, and like Asheville’s, they respond to regional emergencies outside their home cities. The City of Asheville Fire Department’s Rapid Response Team 6 handles HAZMAT calls throughout the state’s westernmost counties.
Norfolk Southern owns all of the rail infrastructure within Asheville City limits, but CSX has track within the RRT 6 response area, so having both companies participating was a benchmark as well, Moore said.
In this case, the teams trained in several scenarios, including a liquid fuel spill, a pressurized fuel escape and evacuating injured rail personnel. Teams trained in the deployment of foam over spills and stopping fuel leaks. The drills required full communications and command centers as well. “This was an incredible opportunity to do this training. Having all of these resources in one place is unheard of,” Moore said. “And it came at no charge to the city.”
Although scheduled to last the duration of the day, drills wrapped up early due to the extensive prior training of the emergency teams. The drill was followed by an additional day of hands-on training with the equipment.
Staging the event required the participation of multiple agencies, including state and federal departments as well as emergency management coordinators from Buncombe and Henderson counties.
On May 14, The City of Asheville and its partners celebrated the official opening of the 1.2 mile French Broad River Greenway Extension. The West Asheville bike and pedestrian route represents the longest continuous stretch in the city’s greenway system and connects to one of the city’s most-utilized park facilities, Carrier Park, to the Hominy Creek Park. The link provides a 3.25 mile connector to the French Broad River Park.
Speaking at the opening, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy heralded the greenway as a step in the right direction toward Council’s strategic goal of green initiatives, encouraging alternative transportation, preservation of green space, protection of wildlife and keeping people connected with Asheville’s natural surroundings.
Like any large initiative, establishing the greenway relied on a long list of partnerships both public and private. The greenway route crosses land owned by the City of Asheville and Buncombe County, and required easements by Progress Energy, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and MSD. Not to mention that the greenway crosses the Asheville Outdoor Center and Wilson’s Riverfront RV Park. The owners of both those businesses were on hand at the ribbon cutting.
Obtaining the necessary easements, planning and design for the greenway constitute five years of work across several city departments and relied on funding from the NC DOT.
“This started a long time ago, and it took a lot of partners to make this possible,” said Asheville’s Director of Parks Recreation and Cultural Arts Roderick Simmons.
Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones also credited the collaboration between city and county leaders and personnel in getting the job done. “I think that connection is just wonderful,” Jones said.
The City of Asheville Parks, Recreation, Cultural Arts and greenways Master Plan was approved by Asheville City Council in 2009. For more information on the plan, click here.
City buses will once again play an integral role in Strive Not to Drive Week activities. New this year is Family Day on Saturday, May 15. Families with young children will be introduced to Asheville Transit through a bus tour and the Bus Bingo Challenge where the goal is to check-off transit-related items along a bus route. The bus will leave the Goodwill store on Patton Avenue at 9:30 a.m. and will travel to the Health Adventure in South Pack Square in downtown Asheville where festivities, complete with activities, music and balloon animals, will last from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Strive Not to Drive Week in Asheville, NC
Novice riders may want to attend the popular Transit 101 on May17 at 10 a.m. The one-hour event covers routes, bus etiquette and more.
Asheville Transit will reduce bus fares to .25 on Friday, May 21. For anyone who has ever contemplated using another mode of transportation, this is the week to do it! “We would especially encourage you to try riding the bus,” said Transit Commission member Hanna Raskin.