Twenty are dead and another 30 are still missing in the province of Quebec, after a train derailment led to a massive fuel explosion this weekend.
Just south of the Canadian border, the tragedy rattled those in Vermont's rail industry.
"Definitely made us think about the things we do," said Selden Houghton of Vermont Railway.
Houghton of Vermont Railway says they carry about 24,000 carloads of freight per year. He says homeland security concerns prevent him from saying how much of that is hazardous material.
The state of Vermont doesn't track rail traffic, but an industry report indicates 6.1 million tons of freight rolled through the Green Mountain State in 2010.
Houghton says they do everything they can to prevent disaster, but are prepared for it.
"We look at everything from a minor spill to a serious hazardous incident-- fire, something of that nature," Houghton said.
Rail experts say the chance of a similar incident here in Vermont is nearly zero, but they train for it constantly and say they're better equipped than responders in remote portions of Canada. In the Quebec crash, responders didn't have easy access to fire-suppressing foam. But Vermont has a rolling supply at the ready.
"We're prepared for any kind of hazmat in the state of Vermont, whether it's biological, chemical weapons of mass destruction, whatever it may be," said Chris Herrick, the Vt. Hazmat chief.
Herrick says in his 19 years with the crew, they've only been to about a dozen incidents involving trains, but respond to about 150 incidents a year in total.
"Any time you have large quantities of product moving, the potential is there," he said.
That potential became a reality in 2007, when 24 cars-- including 15 carrying gasoline-- jumped the rails in Middlebury leading to fire and evacuations. The local fire department led response efforts, coordinating with the rail operator and hazmat team.
"I personally have never been to the rail yard for an incident that involved the release of a hazardous material that needed to be mitigated," said Joe Keenan, the assistant fire marshal in Burlington.
Burlington firefighters say they're constantly in communication with Vermont Railway and could handle a small event. But given a catastrophe of the size and scope of the incident in Canada, only so much can be done.
Local fire departments will take the lead if and when an event occurs in their area. At that point, they'll coordinate with rail operators and involve the hazmat team if necessary. The National Guard would also likely be called in if Vermont ever faces a disaster like the one in Canada.
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:27 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:27:22 GMT
Town meeting day didn't bode well for dozens of school budgets across the state. Now the Burlington City Council is looking to cut costs after voters rejected school spending hikes. The council votedMore >>
Town meeting day didn't bode well for dozens of school budgets across the state. Now the Burlington City Council is looking to cut costs after voters rejected school spending hikes.More >>
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:26 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:26:45 GMT
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill passed Tuesday allows an unlimited number of qualified Vermonters to access medical marijuana -- removing theMore >>
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries.More >>
Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:26 AM EDT2014-03-12 04:26:03 GMT
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman. 43-year-old Craig Dubuque was arrested for the alleged financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Police sayMore >>
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 11:35 PM EDT2014-03-12 03:35:07 GMT
"You know, people say you might not need it, which is true, but this way you get a choice. I don't have to go out tomorrow," said Lorinda Henry of Milton. Henry says she hit the grocery stores TuesdayMore >>
Parts of Vermont could get up to 24 inches of snow in the coming storm. And VTrans officials are warning drivers they may not be able to keep up with the storm rolling in Wednesday.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 8:02 PM EDT2014-03-12 00:02:07 GMT
"Seems like it was just yesterday. Doesn't seem like it's been two years at all," said Glenda Reandeau of Tupper Lake. Residents of Tupper Lake still have their eyes out for Colin Gillis, a now 20-year-oldMore >>
Colin Gillis of Tupper Lake, N.Y., disappeared two years ago. And authorities are still searching for him. They say the investigation now focuses on tips from the public and from those who were the last to see Gillis.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 6:17 PM EDT2014-03-11 22:17:43 GMT
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser. Authorities say Officer Adam Lucia was one of two officers responding to an aggravated assault call Monday at TopsMore >>
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser.More >>