Kneehill County council hears about hamlet evacuation

CAPTION The scene at Swalwell March 9. The propane truck was split, with the pup tank on the other side of the track. ECA Review/Submitted
Written by Stu Salkeld

The scene at Swalwell March 9. The propane truck was split, with the pup tank on the other side of the track. ECA Review/Submitted

Communication was key as Kneehill County staff, emergency personnel and others responded to a semi and train collision last March. 

A report on the response to the crash, including the evacuation of the Hamlet of Swalwell, was given to Kneehill County council during their regular meeting April 28.

The council meeting was streamed live on the municipal YouTube channel to address COVID-19 social distancing measures.

Deborah Grosfield, director of Emergency Management, reported to council on the collision of an 18-wheeled propane truck with pup trailer and a CN train March 9 in mid-afternoon. 

Grosfield said communication between the various responders, including the Linden Fire Department, CN Rail, municipal staff and others who responded to the incident was impressive.

Grosfield stated in her report the Hamlet of Swalwell was evacuated due to a propane truck being involved in the incident.

“A propane truck versus train incident occurred at 14:55 on March 9, 2020 in the Hamlet of Swalwell along Township Road 30-2,” stated the council memo. 

“Evacuation of approximately 54 homes/100 residents was activated upon Linden Fire’s arrival at scene and all were evacuated in under two hours.

“The emergency coordination centre was set up by 15:20 at the Kneehill County office to support the event, and the registration/evacuation centre was set up by Kneehill Regional FCSS at the Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills. 

Members from Kneehill Regional Emergency Management Agency were on hand to help from other municipalities.

“A state of local emergency was established to support the event to issue the mandatory evacuation for the safety of all residents. 

To ensure security of the hamlet, volunteer fire departments, through mutual aid, established posts at all entrances that were manned throughout the entire incident.”

Grosfield stated in her presentation to council Alberta Environment also responded to the incident due to the semi-truck’s propane load. 

There were no injuries in the incident, the train was able to get moving again by 2 a.m. March 10 and the truck’s propane tanks were offloaded by 2 p.m. March 10. 

Residents were allowed to return after the propane tanks were gone.

She stated the residents of Swalwell were evacuated because of the propane held in the truck’s tanks. 

She noted an evacuation can be a very stressful thing to endure and the residents were very patient as it only took about two hours to evacuate the entire hamlet. 

However, one issue emergency services personnel came across was the evacuation of pets. Three Hills Valley Vet Clinic stepped up and handled pets involved in the evacuation.

Grosfield also stated an invoice has been sent to the trucking company’s insurance company for the costs of the event.

Several councillors stated they were impressed with the smooth way the event evolved, including Reeve Jerry Wittstock, who said, “I appreciate the way it was handled. It looked very professional.”

Coun. Wade Christie asked how command at the scene was handled, and Grosfield stated it was joint command between the Linden Fire Department, CN Rail and Alberta Environment.

Councillors accepted the incident report for information.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.