WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a brief speech late Monday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, praised the volunteer firefighters from western Maine that travelled to Lac-Megantic, Quebec, to help contain tragic fire there last week.

King, speaking from the floor of the U.S. Senate, hailed the 30 firefighters from Eustis, Rangeley, Farmington, Phillips, Strong, New Vineyard and Chesterville who responded after a runaway train carrying crude oil crashed in the small Canadian town and exploded, destroying six city blocks and killing at least 50 people.

“Except for the chief, every firefighter who made this journey, every single one was a volunteer,” King said, “serving and risking their lives of their own choice and volition.”

King said the volunteers from Maine quickly realized they could help by pumping water from a nearby lake, proceeding to do so for 21 hours straight.

“Those brave men and women, driven by an incredible spirit of perseverance and self-sacrifice, worked tirelessly to extinguish the blaze and gain control of the burning train cars,” King said.  He said that Rangeley fire Chief Timothy Pellerin described the moment when the fire was finally under control, “like a ball team after a win.”

He said the Canadian firefighters, many of whom had been battling the blaze all night long, were overwhelmed.

“Residents of Lac-Megantic and local firemen were coming up to one of the Rangeley firetrucks and asking to have their picture taken with the American flag attached to the safety bar and pausing to touch it as a sign of their respect and gratitude,” King said.  

“We still don’t know the devastation wrecked by this gruesome event,” King said. “The clean-up and recovery costs will undoubtedly be astronomical, as well as the traumatic impact on the community, upon which no dollar estimate can be placed.”

King said his thoughts and prayers remained with all in Lac-Megantic and that he hoped investigators would determine what caused the accident and what needs to be done to prevent another disaster from occurring. 

He said the wreck could become the worst railway disaster in North American history. 

“The perseverance, skill and courage of those firefighters from Maine and their brave Canadian counterparts could not prevent a tragedy, but at least contained and controlled it,” King said. “This is the best of America.”

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