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Old rail cars become fire and rescue training tool

Kootenai County Fire and Rescue in Post Falls is upgrading its training facility with the help of the railroad.

On Sunday, a construction contractor and the fire department moved two used and decontaminated tank cars to the department’s training facility at 5271 E. Seltice Way.

The cars were donated by BNSF Railway as part of the company’s effort to increase training capabilities.

Jim Lyon, public information officer for KCFR, said the two cars were lifted from a BNSF crossing on North Cedar Street and East Seltice Way about a block from the fire headquarters and training center.

The cars were rolled down the pavement during a complex operation Sunday morning.

Hulcher Services, a contractor with expertise in clearing train wrecks, was brought to Post Falls to undertake the lift and move. The crew came from Pasco.

“It was a huge operation,” Lyon said. The workers had to lift and turn the cars so they would clear crossing signs without causing damage, he explained.

The two pressurized container cars will now be used by the department in regional training exercises on hazardous materials accidents, he said.

KCFR has about four dozen rail crossings in its district, and has responsibility for a portion of main line routes southwest of Rathdrum.

The value of the donation was in excess of $50,000.

“This is worth every dollar,” said Gus Melonas, regional spokesman for BNSF. “This furthers the effort to ensure that all of us are prepared in case of an emergency.”

The idea of creating a rail car training facility dates back more than two years and was the brainchild of KCFR firefighter Adam Knight, who believed that having pressurized container cars on the training ground would help firefighters become more familiar with rail equipment.

One of the cars was damaged in a train accident in Texas and the other was used by Shell Chemical in Houston for 30 years and was past its service life, Lyon said.

Move over, new law says

The Washington State Patrol is reminding drivers that a new state law to protect roadside emergency crews will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Under the new emergency zone law, motorists on multi-lane roadways are required to merge to the opposite lane when approaching emergency vehicles if possible. Drivers still must yield to other drivers and are not required to merge, but must slow down, if there is not room in an adjacent lane. In some cases, drivers are allowed to cross the centerline on two-lane roadways to create more room at an emergency scene.

The law creates an emergency zone 200 feet in front of a scene and 200 feet behind it. Motorists must either slow down or move away from the emergency crews, including tow trucks, police and fire vehicles.

Speeding through the zone is enforced by double fines, and dangerous driving through the zone is punishable with a gross misdemeanor.

The new law strengthens Washington’s existing emergency zone law that was adopted in 2007. The so-called “move over law” was not doing enough to reduce accidents at emergency scenes, troopers said.

From 2006 through 2009, the State Patrol alone had 80 collisions involving passing vehicles striking trooper vehicles parked along roadways. The main contributing factor was speeding.

For a short video on the new law, go to

Holiday travel predictions

AAA is forecasting a 3.1 percent increase in Christmas travel this week across the country. About 92.3 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home. That’s up from the 89.5 million people who traveled for Christmas a year ago. About 93 percent of those travelers will drive.

Free parking

The city of Spokane said parking meters will be free on Friday and New Year’s Eve. In addition, garbage and recycling pickup crews will be on a regular schedule those two days.

Slow down, please

Workers on the North Spokane Corridor have revised the lane configurations of U.S. Highway 395 in the vicinity of a new interchange for the north-south freeway corridor. Drivers are being asked to slow down through the construction zone.

Top stories in Spokane

Ethics Commission: Mayor David Condon honest in handling of Frank Straub questions

UPDATED: 8:09 p.m.

updated  The final complaint targeting Mayor David Condon for his handling of the ouster of former Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub was unanimously dismissed by the city’s Ethics Commission on Wednesday, who said the complaint was fueled by opinions, not facts or evidence presented by former City Council President Joe Shogan.