A BCEHS ambulance was dispatched to a call at Rocky Mountain Village in Fernie on October 7, 2.65km from the ambulance station, but was stopped short at the 4th Street train crossing when a train rolled through town. Multiple times a day, the communities of Ridgemont and beyond are isolated and unreachable by medical personnel for a period of four minutes or more. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Delays at railroad crossing in Kootenay town cause for concern

About 1870 Fernie residents are temporarily isolated when the train passes through town

Multiple times a day, the Fernie communities of Ridgemont and beyond are isolated and unreachable by medical personnel.

Trains are commonplace in the Elk Valley, and an integral part of local industry. They are the lifeline of many industries across Canada. The age-old train lines here have seen many cars pass over them; coal, canola, lumber, ammonia, to name a few.

Through Fernie, the train line runs parallel to downtown and acts as a divider between commercial (northwest) and residential (southeast).

Without trains, the Elk Valley’s life blood of coal, and exports from Alberta, would never reach consumers on the coast. However this train line also comes with challenges for those living on the other side of the railroad crossing.

Two train crossings in the Fernie area are used regularly to reach the residential areas of Ridgemont, Pine Avenue, Coal Creek, Montane, the mobile home park, Castle Mountain subdivisions, an apartment complex, as well as Rocky Mountain Village senior’s care home. Also included in this area is the Fernie Aquatic Centre, bike park, and in the winter, outdoor skating rink.

This area is growing quickly, with developments underway, subdivisions extended and more homes built every year.

Of the approx. 5,250 people that live in Fernie, about 1870 are temporarily isolated when the train passes through town, four times a day or more. This number does not include the residents of Cokato, which borders the City of Fernie and is also accessible using these crossings.

When passing through town, the train, which stretches about three kilometres in length, blocks each train crossing for approximately four minutes. In addition to this, it blocks both main train crossings simultaneously for a period of a few minutes, and will sometimes stop for an indeterminate period of time.

According to CP Rail, an average train in the Elk Valley is 152 cars long, at 67 feet per car, making them about 10,000 feet or 3.048 kilometres in length.

A spokeperson for CP Rail explained that between four to six trains pass through the Valley in a 24-hour period, but that the number of trains are determined by how much product the mines export in a given day.

On October 7 at 10:58 p.m., BCEHS paramedics were dispatched to a call at Rocky Mountain Village in Fernie, a retirement home located 1.5 km from the paramedic station, and another 1.15 km past the railroad crossing.

According to a statement by BC Emergency Health Services, the ambulance responded lights and sirens through downtown, but stopped short of the tracks when they saw crossing lights flashing and arms lowering.

The ambulance turned off its sirens and stopped, the only vehicle in line to cross the tracks. About four minutes later once the train had passed, the arms lifted and the ambulance proceeded the remaining distance to the call. They arrived at the scene at 11:08 p.m.

No details were provided with regards to the outcome of the call.

According to a BCEHS spokesperson, the three train track crossings in the city of Fernie are something all emergency responders take into consideration.

The BCEHS spokesperson further explained that in the event a crossing is blocked by a moving train, it is usually quickest and safest for paramedics to wait at the crossing and proceed when it clears. If a train has stopped and blocked the crossing for an undetermined amount of time, the spokesperson explained that responding crews are to ‘use their best judgement’ and possibly reroute to another crossing.

However, the length of the trains make this difficult. The two main crossings in Fernie are one kilometre apart. With each train three kilometres long, both crossings will be blocked for two kilometres of travel.

If you have been affected by delays due to the train, or would like to share your thoughts on this, write to editor@thefreepress.ca.



editor@thefreepress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FortisBC offers 90-day bill deferrals to customers impacted by COVID-19

Customers can apply for the relief program through the utility’s website

Utility bill relief coming for Castlegar residents

Due dates for utility bills pushed back to July.

Regional District of Central Kootenay changes services due to COVID-19

Building inspections and GIS services are some of the services impacted

Frustrated MLA begs out of province visitors to stay home

Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok doesn’t understand why people aren’t listening to good advice

Castlegar council split over COVID-19 relief

Due dates for utility bills pushed back to July.

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Blasting through the West Kootenay

80 years ago; ‘Pretty near all the people from Fruitvale were working on it’

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

Most Read