The chaos and fire were unlike anything Tim Pellerin had seen in his 34-year career.

After making the two-hour drive in July 2013 to help devastated Lac-Megantic, Quebec, following a major crude-oil train derailment there, the Rangeley Fire Department and other Western Maine crews found almost no one else on scene who spoke English. Their hoses couldn’t connect to Canadian hoses. Their dispatch was too far away to relay anything.

“Main Street was still burning, the oil in the streets was still burning,” said Rangeley Fire Chief Pellerin. “We started grabbing other firefighters, ‘Do you speak English? Do you speak English?’ We finally found someone. He became our liaison all weekend.”

On Wednesday, Pellerin will testify in front of the U.S. Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., invited by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to share details from the scene last July and lessons learned.

Other speakers will talk about rail safety and the transportation of crude oil as that committee gets ready to write a funding bill for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“The horrific train derailment that occurred last July in Lac-Megantic, Canada — just 30 miles from the Maine border — highlights the need for rail safety improvements,” Collins said Tuesday via a spokesman.

“More than 30 firefighters came from Maine to bravely answer their Canadian neighbors’ call for help, highlighting the importance of emergency response,” the spokesman said. “The tremendous growth in transporting crude oil by rail is an energy boost for our country, but it also potentially represents a new hazard to the communities these rail cars travel through.”

Collins is a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee.

Pellerin said he had spent most of his firefighting career in southern Maine. He came to Rangeley as chief almost two years ago.

Last July, his department and six other Western Maine fire departments responded after a train carrying 50,000 barrels of crude oil derailed and killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic.

“I’ve had a lot of fires, city blocks on fire, building fires and things like that but nothing of that magnitude,” Pellerin said. “It was just horrific. Some 30 buildings had been destroyed. Six city blocks had been leveled, incinerated.”

The Maine crews, he said, quickly assumed two jobs: pumping water to the scene from Lac Megantic (all of the water mains and hydrants had broken after multiple explosions) and pouring water onto intact tanker cars.

“They hadn’t leaked their products and they were right near the ones that were on fire, so they were becoming extremely hot and in danger of exploding,” Pellerin said. “We used our big tower ladders that we’d brought up, mine and Farmington’s, extended them out 100 feet, then used big water cannons on those. We kept them cool for 30 hours until they brought in foam to put the fires out.”

Pellerin, who flew down to D.C. on Tuesday afternoon, is scheduled to testify at 9:45 a.m. He had given a lot of thought to lessons learned from the experience. The biggest one seemed to be: Don’t let it happen again.

“We’ve got to approach this from a preventive standpoint, not a response standpoint,” he said. “By the time you have a disaster of such proportions, it’s really hard to grasp and get a handle on it and begin to work on it.”

He planned to suggest more major disaster training, enforcing rail safety laws and if something does go wrong, making sure “that there’s somebody coming from the shipper, whoever’s shipped these hazardous materials, to come help us take care of the problem.”

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