At 7 a.m. Saturday morning, the last Oneida City fire truck rolled off the disaster site following the March 12 CSX train derailment and explosion. The accident sent work crews from all over the country scurrying to a small rural area between Oneida and Wampsville.
"The guys are wiped out," said Oneida Fire Department Chief Donald Hudson. "They've put in a lot of hours, fuses are a little short, but I guess that's to be expected."
Hudson said he was on his way to work a week ago Monday when he looked to the left and saw a large ball of fire.
"I thought, 'Canastota's got one heck of a fire,'" Hudson said. "I called the base, and they said it appeared to be on the northwest side of the city, so I headed that way. When I got to West Elm Street toward the CSX access road, I knew what it was."
A CSX train consisting of 79 cars, including 40 cars carrying liquid propane gas derailed and exploded, sending black smoke and fumes into the air.
Hudson said 28 of the cars were on fire, 19 of which contained LP gas. He said one of the challenges emergency crews faced early on was the decision to not do any actual fire fighting until they felt comfortable being in there.
"We didn't know what we were dealing with," he said.
He said firefighters are trained to put out fires and just watching the train cars burn was tough. The decision to not use water was made.
"And some chemicals don't react well to fire," Hudson said.
By 8 a.m., Hudson said they had retrieved the manifest detailing the cargo on each car and had a handle on what the situation was.
Arriving on the scene shortly thereafter were CSX and Oneida County hazardous materials teams. Hudson made a call to Syracuse for crash and rescue crews that also specialize in hazardous materials.