PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. -- The fire departments for Terrace and Thornhill took part in a training session this weekend that focused on how to manage propane fires.

The event was organized by Emergency Response Assistance Canada and funded by AltaGas, which operates the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal in Prince Rupert.

The training session focused primarily on fires from larger vessels, such as rail cars, but Terrace Deputy Fire Chief Dave Jephson says the training will also assist them with all sorts of propane fires.

He says the department regularly deals with fires connected to propane tanks on people’s sundecks

“The training goes hand-in-hand,” he said. “Sure, if we look at a rail car that is potentially involved with an incident, that’s a lot of volume, but we still go to the 20-pound propane cylinders on people’s sundecks. If that’s venting and shooshing out, that’s a lot of fire. That’s intimidating. That can cause a lot of damage.”

With propane fires, Jephson says it’s not as easy as simply shooting water at the flames.

“Having that basic knowledge, the firefighters know how to engage the situation [and] how to protect themselves – they know to turn the valve off rather than put the fire out. If they put the fire out, now all of a sudden, you have this leaking gas. We want to try to prevent leaking gas.”

AltaGas Senior Vice President for External Affairs Dan Woznow says this event is just one of many training sessions that the company hopes to hold with fire departments along the railroad.

“When we talked to the communities along the corridor, one of the biggest things [we heard] is they have a lot of budget for firefighting, but they don’t have a lot of budgets for training,” he said.

“The fire departments want to be trained, and the training that they do here doesn’t just help with propane fires potentially around rail cars – it also helps with propane fires in RVs and backyards.”

A few local politicians made appearances at the event as well.

“It’s a safety thing for our community to know that our fire department is where they need to be,” said Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc.

“They’re up to date, they’re trained. And I’m really happy that AltaGas has organized this thing. You know when you have industry come into a region and then get everything up and going and then then they step back? AltaGas hasn’t stepped back from the City of Terrace and the other communities along the railway line."

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachach and Skeena MLA Ellis Ross were also in attendance.

“It’s nice to see companies like Superior Propane, CN and AltaGas actually footing the bill for this type of training," said Ross. "This should be happening all across B.C.”