MINOT AIR BASE, ND —
Early on Sunday morning May 1, 2022, many citizens of Ward County received a public safety notice advising them of a train derailment in Burlington, ND, and asking them to evacuate their homes immediately.
Shortly after, they received a follow-up notification that the situation was safe and they should return home. However, for some members of Minot Air Force Base, they have started heading towards the scene of the incident.
Minot AFB firefighters from the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron received a call to respond early Sunday morning and were immediately dispatched to the crash in teams of three to assist the Burlington and Minot Rural Fire Departments as part of the the Mutual Aid Agreement (MAA), under the Defense Civil Authorities Support (DSCA) statute, between Minot Air Force Base, the United States Air Force, and the United States Fire Department North Dakota from Minot.
The train, carrying various materials, derailed outside the city limits of Minot near Burlington and burst into flames, setting at least 11 cars on fire. The 11 burning railcars contained cargo consisting of paper and frozen food and contained no hazardous materials, according to the incident commander on scene.
Local fire departments responded to the blaze with trucks equipped with foam to extinguish the fire while Minot AFB firefighters used water. The derailment site proved difficult for crews to reach due to wet conditions, prompting North Dakota National Guard helicopter air support to help put out the fires.
Although more than 20 years have passed since the last derailment at Minot, this is not the first time that the Minot AFB Fire Department has provided support to the local community. Recently, the Base Fire Department answered the call when the Glenburn Fire Department caught fire, burning down the volunteer fire station and destroying seven vehicles in the process.
“I am extremely proud of the relationship we have built and continue to have with our mutual aid partners,” said the Chief Master Sgt. Shanton Russell, Fire Chief of the 5 CES facility. “Our Airmen and their families live, work, shop, go to school and find ways to have fun and enjoy the things this area has to offer. It is our home while we are here and the local residents are our neighbors.
The MAA provides authority to both the U.S. Air Force and local civilian fire departments to respond to incidents in each other’s jurisdictions upon request.
“Over the years, we have been called upon to respond to many calls, such as the Glenburn fire station incident, an accommodation fire in Berthold, numerous farmland and brush fires, and a fire recycling plant just outside of town off U.S. Route 2,” Russel said.
Although the Minot AFB Fire Department has made requests for assistance, they have also made requests for assistance in the past. Just recently Community Fire Services was involved in a smoke investigation at a facility next to the main facility and prior to that they were involved in a hangar fire on base in 2020.
“We’re grateful to be able to provide professional firefighters and equipment when needed, and it’s good to know that our partners will have our backs if we ever need to call on them,” Russell said.