Missoula City Fire crews are waiting in line to receive specialized training to handle the challenge of fighting a fire on a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken formation. 

Chief Jason Diehl said the training is so popular that his department is on a waiting list.

"BNSF, that's Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railroad, offers a course specific to dealing with Bakken crude fires that is offered down in Pueblo, Colorado," Diehl said. "We've been trying to get members of our hazardous materials team to get into that training. Unfortunately, it's been quite popular because it is offered for free, so we weren't able to get in last fall, so we're going to try again when they offer it in the spring."

Diehl said a Bakken oil train fire poses special problems.

"It's a real hands-on approach to dealing with Bakken oil fires, because they tend to be more volatile than other crude oil," he said. "If we had a situation like that in downtown Missoula our first priority would be life safety and making sure that the area was evacuated. Secondly, we would be protecting structures or other tanks. If you had a relatively small fire, you could extinguish it quickly, but like what happened in North Dakota and in Quebec, you're basically going to have to let it burn itself out."

Diehl said his crews train on a regular basis with Montana Rail Link, and that the company has an excellent relationship with Missoula City Fire.

"We have a hazardous materials team so we do train on fighting burning liquid fires in general," he said. "The interest in this training is that it is specific to dealing with Bakken crude."

In a press release, Montana Rail Link said their traffic contains less than one percent crude oil, while 29 percent is coal and 70 percent is spread between industrial products, grain and other products.

More From Newstalk KGVO 1290 AM & 98.3 FM