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Editor’s blog – part 2

April 15, 2015, Dryden, Ont. – Little things.

Like how to get inside the Lac-Megantic fire station when the electricity has been cut to the whole town because a massive freight train has blown up and everything is on fire.

Like the fact that the only survivors at the Musi-Café were those who had gone outside for a smoke, saw the explosion, and ran for their lives.

Like the fact that many of the hoses brought by mutual aid had incompatible couplings.

Like the fact that when Lac-Megantic Fire Chief Denis Lauzon finally found enough foam he had to then scramble to get a cheque for $300,000 from municipal officials because the company wanted payment up front – while the better part of the town was burning.

Like the woman who ran the Salvation Army food truck and fed more than 1,000 firefighters three meals a day for a month.

“We had a problem on Saturday,” Lauzon said Wednesday at the Northwest Response Forum in Dryden, brilliantly interspersing lighter moments among the presentation slides filled with eerie photos of the inferno.

“EMS and police were coming and stealing our food! She was our savior!”

And like the fact that there were rescues and saves that were never reported. Good work done by lots of people.

How Lauzon maintains even a semblance of a sense of humour about the events of July 6, 2013, is remarkable, but it’s clear that it comes from understanding that his firefighters – and others – did everything possible during and after the fire and explosion that killed 47 people.

Eighty fire departments helped in the aftermath – from as far away as Gatineau, on the opposite side of the massive province of Quebec.

“That’s my mutual aid,” Lauzon said, chuckling and the radius of the encircled fire departments on the onscreen map, but grateful.

Six departments came from the United States; Lauzon traded off portable radios for a French/English interpreter for those firefighters. Unified command was used.

There was a 3 p.m. meeting every day with dozens of agencies. Manhole covers blew off, becoming “flying saucers,” a problem that was eventually fixed by the use of protective chimneys. Water and air and soil were contaminated by the fuel in those nasty DOT 11 train cars.

Lauzon was blunt when I chatted with him yesterday about the US $200-million settlement announced a couple of weeks ago – shaking his head over the fact that only a fraction of the money is destined for the families of the 47 people who died in the explosion.

He was also blunt during his presentation, about the stresses of working to change regulations for the transportation of dangerous goods, among other things.

“I see it as a moon,” he said. “It has a shiny side and dark side.

“The shiny side will work with you and bring ideas to go forward. But the dark side . . . ”

I’ll leave it at that.

Read Laura King's third blog, or jump back to her first blog from the Northwest Response Forum.

Follow her on Twitter @FireinCanada, for live coverage of the conference.

See a Storify collection of the tweets here.

April 15, 2015 
By Laura King

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