Jurisdiction Question

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bcgfdc3
Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Aug 24, 2014 1:43 am

Jurisdiction Question

Post by bcgfdc3 »

So, I have a jurisdictional/legal question for all of you.

Le me set this up.

I belong to a local, municipal volunteer fire department. We recently had a call that involved a tractor trailer being struck by a train. The trailer was a flatbed but not a full-size flatbed. It was carrying approximately 100 pieces of one” steel bar approximately 16’ long. No one was injured in the crash. Steel bar wasscattered everywhere and truck had taken out several parked cars along with a utility pole with three transformers on it. It also severely damaged two structures.

So, after the initial assessment and the power company disconnected their lines, the train was able to move and continued on. The railroad workers were numerous and inspected their track and the crossing gates etc. and deemed their line available and wanted to resume traffic. Everyone on scene was advised that rail traffic would resume. The clean-up crew from the tow company was working within close proximity to the track trying to clean up the steel bar. The next train came trough at normal speed, which I assume was somewhere in the 40-45 mph range as this is a residential area. The fire chief on scene was startled and asked the railroad supervisor on scene if they could have the trains reduce their speed through the area as crews were working within 15’-20’ of the tracks. The supervisor blatantly said “No” it is private property and there is no reason to slow them. The fire chief became very upset and requested dispatch have the railroad contacted and stop all rail traffic on this single line. The fire chief then contacted a friend of his at the railroad that has some authority and got the rail traffic slowed.

So, my question is this: Who has jurisdiction? Does the fire chief, even if there is no immediate hazard? Do the local police have authority to stop rail traffic? Or does the railroad because they are a federal entity? Could the railroad have the fire chief arrested by railroad PD if it came to it? Just curious.

eolesen
Posts: 676
Joined: Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:01 am

Jurisdiction Question

Post by eolesen »

The railroad isn’t a federal entity, but the supervisor was correct about the right of way being private property.

Down to brass tacks, the cleanup crew was probably trespassing if they were within 15-20 feet of the tracks. ROW varies but is usually at least 25 feet wide on either side. So yes, the cleanup crew could have been arrested.

Contacting the dispatcher (blue plate at grade crossing) to advise of fire department activity near the tracks should have been sufficient to get a slow order. The on-site supervisor sounds like he was being a jerk.

jwhite07
Posts: 1497
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 7:39 pm

Re: Jurisdiction Question

Post by jwhite07 »

That "supervisor" has ZERO brains. Whatever happened to safety first?

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