MACOUN - The mayor of Macoun and the head of the emergency measures organization for the RM of Cymri are praising the way in which residents handled the train derailment and fire that occurred just outside of Macoun last week.
And they're also grateful for efforts of several different agencies during the response.
Those who reside within 2,200 metres of the fire had to be evacuated Thursday. People from the RM of Cymri were advised that the Harry O Memorial Arena in Midale was open and available to them, while those who were evacuated in Macoun could go to the William Snider Memorial Park Recreation Centre, if they didn’t have anywhere else to go.
Those who live outside of the 2,200-metre zone did not have to leave their homes.
The exclusion zone was trimmed to 1,000 metres Friday morning, allowing most people to return home. The states of emergency and evacuation orders were finished by Friday afternoon, and the evacuation order was lifted.
Both communities reported an outpouring of support for the evacuees, as well as those who responded to the scene, which included the Estevan RCMP, the Midale-Cymri fire department, CP Rail crews and the Estevan Fire Rescue Service, who were there through a mutual aid call.
Macoun Mayor Suzanne Kuchinka said the response was typical of a small community.
“I don’t know if there was a municipality that didn’t reach out to us on Thursday and even on Friday,” said Kuchinka.
City of Estevan safety co-ordinator Helen Fornwald was “amazing”, Kuchinka said, offering the assistance they needed. The communities of Midale and Torquay reached out to them to offer help.
People dropped off baked goods and meals. Coffee was available for anybody who wanted it, including the RCMP, CP Rail workers and firefighters from Estevan and Midale-Cymri.
“There was so many people just willing to lend a hand that it made a tough situation a little easier to handle,” said Kuchinka.
The Macoun Co-op remained opened for extended hours.
“I’ve lived in Macoun my entire life, and I’ve never seen the co-op open past six o’clock, but the co-op was open all night on Thursday night and they actually ran all the way through until Friday at 5:30 [p.m.],” said Kuchinka.
Five homes were evacuated in Macoun. Nobody had to stay at the recreation centre overnight. Everyone was able to find accommodations.
The general manager of the Hotel Estevan is a Macoun resident, and she offered a place to stay for any of the evacuees.
“I know that there were a few that took that offer. We did have people at the rec. centre during the day and into the afternoon, just as a place to touch base until they could find other accommodations,” said Kuchinka.
She believes the evacuees handled the situation well, but many in the village were shaken up by the incident.
“Just the thought process of had that happened two kilometres before it did, that would have been in the very centre in our community. Like a lot of small towns that were established before some of these safety procedures were put into place, we have homes that are right on the tracks,” she said.
Aaron Toles, who is the emergency measures officer for the RM of Cymri, said it was the first time he has had to handle such a situation in three-plus years in his role.
“You don’t run into those kinds of situations very often,” said Toles.
Twenty-six homes were evacuated from the RM. Most stayed with friends and family, which he said is a perk of living in a rural community, because everyone knows each other. He’s not sure of anyone who needed to stay at the evacuation centre at the RM of Cymri.
The Midale-Cymri department was the first on scene and did a great job, he said, until CP Rail came to take over command. The Estevan Fire Rescue Service did a great job of providing mutual aid, and the RM’s office employees were outstanding in the trying time.
“We’re just very lucky to have such a professional, volunteer fire department in Midale-Cymri,” said Toles. “For them, it was a bigger scale, but it definitely was not something that they were stressed or unprepared for. They’re always exceptional.”
Once CP arrived, the Midale firefighters were involved with traffic control at the scene. Many of them put in extremely long hours. Once the situation stabilized, Midale and Estevan firefighters alternated shifts, giving them a chance to take a break.
When the state of emergency was lifted Friday afternoon, Toles’ work as the EMO wrapped up.
He’s also grateful to the Village of Macoun for being so accommodating throughout the situation.
“The whole village pulled together. There was always a warm building open for anyone in the area that was working, and it was something to see.”
Cleanup efforts were ongoing at the derailment site as of Monday afternoon. Kuchinka noted there were rail cars on both sides of the track.