Another dry spring in May for Michigan has caused quite a few brush fires along the Railroad Right of Way. Most recently the Volunteer FD I just started working for in Kimball Twp, MI had several on 14 May along the Grand Trunk Western Flint Subdivision. I just wanted to share my experience working on RR incidents and dispatch in the station while the extinguishment was going on.
#1) Contact the owner of the railroad before any equipment and personnel are on the line and be sure to stay clear of the line until the train dispatcher informs the FD of clearance onto the tracks. I was redundant and called even after the county dispatch contacted them... we all know what happens when the ball drops. County dispatchers have their hand full with oither incidents too. Take some load off them if possible.
#2) Get a name and a direct call back number. Most corporations now have the automated answering systems that can take forever it seems to talk to a human. Canadian National RR system is computerized, but getting the call back extention from the train dispatcher helped speed up comm with them and myself and getting info to the IC. Canadian National was very professional and communication with them went well.
#3) Keep everyone informed of what is going on and communicate with train crews when possible. That statement may sound dumb, but working with another volunteer ambulance company on a car vs train a few years back, we almost had a few firefighters get caught under a box car as it started to be pulled to clear the crossing. The engineer failed to let the emergency personnel know about the train movement. All rescue gear was blocked by the train and had to be pushed under cars or over the coupler. The train started to move and I was a foot from one of the box cars getting ready to grab more equipment from being pushed under it. Not a good thing to have 100,000+ pounds of car moving that close unexspectedly.
I have worked for Rail a contractor before and performed work on RR signals and other devices. If a train is passing by you, move far away from the tracks and face the oncoming train. Objects may be caught or hanging off cars and can be leathal if your body comes in contact with something. Also, if a car happens to derail, facing the oncoming train will allow you to react and get out of the way if possible. If caught between two sets tracks and two trains, lay down on the ground off the tracks between them. Your body should be length wise like the tracks. Standing up is hazardous and also my cause you to feel dizzy. Again, try not to stay on the right of way if possible. All train movements should be stopped if practicle before any personnel are on the RR right of way. SAFETY FIRST!!
Once all operations are complete notify the RR of the current situation and if any RR properties are damaged that info should be passed on the the RR company. Damaged tracks from fire or firefighting operations could cause another accident far grater than a brush fire. I hope that this info may help anyone. Also, many railroads are happy to give classes on RR equipment and safety to emergency agencies. Conrail and Norfolk Southern both offer this. I have attended one such class and it was an eye opener.
Keep cool and keep it safe.