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Alberta town devastated by fire now worried about rail safety

Oct. 11, 2013, Slave Lake, Alta. – Some residents in the northern Alberta community of Slave Lake are raising alarm bells about a railway bridge in the community.

October 11, 2013
By The Canadian Press

Oct. 11, 2013, Slave Lake, Alta. – Some residents in the northern Alberta community of Slave Lake are raising alarm bells about a railway bridge in the community.

The Canadian National Railway bridge was damaged in the massive fire that tore through the town in 2011.

The company says it has passed inspection and now meets or exceeds all requirements.

But local resident Dave Loyie recently posted pictures to Facebook showing damage and captioned "Chunks of railing missing."

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Mayor Tyler Warman says that CN did come to do testing on the bridge after the 2011 fire, but says since then people have noticed more degradation.

He has reached out to CN to have the town's concerns addressed not only about the bridge, but the integrity of the entire system.

"I know that problems aren't isolated just to the bridge," Warman says. "We just want someone here to let us know that our community is safe and our residents are protected."

"I don't want anybody to die here," says Loyie. "We just had a major disaster by a fire coming through town from the outside, I don't want to have a disaster here from a fire starting in the middle of town and spreading out."

For many, the rail disaster in Lac Megantic, Que., is a warning.

"Those trains are carrying, like, oil and whatever else, and if that derails here, that's right beside our high school," says Krista Curtis. "All our kids walk through there daily. There's so many houses close to the area."

CN says it is offering to share its inspection record with town officials.

"The bridge is in safe condition for rail operations and our crews will continue to inspect the bridge and make sure it continues to meet those standards," says Warren Chandler, the company's senior manager for public and government affairs.

"We'll sit down with any potential or willing customers, and we'll sit down with municipalities and communities through which we operate, we want to make sure that the municipalities know safety is our utmost importance at CN."

CN is scheduled to make a presentation to town council on Nov. 5.

"Our council is going to have some tough questions for them, our residents are going to have some tough questions for them," says the mayor. "They deserve to have those questions answered."