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New Camp Ripley training facility offers first responders unique, realistic hazmat training

Drills and exercises at the Joint Emergency Response Training Center will include simulated responses to rail car leaks, pipeline incidents, tanker truck crashes and other hazmat transportation scenarios.

A simulated derailed train car fire.
A simulated fire from derailed train cars is one of several realistic scenarios emergency responders can train for at Camp Ripley's new Joint Emergency Response Training Center.
Contributed / Camp Ripley
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CAMP RIPLEY — A new state-of-the-art training facility opened Wednesday, Oct. 5, at Camp Ripley Training Center near Little Falls offering firefighters and other first responders training they need to protect their communities should the unthinkable happen.

A hazardous materials disaster could be devastating to any Minnesota town, Camp Ripley officials said in a news release. The Joint Emergency Response Training Center allows Minnesota firefighters and hazmat response personnel to conduct live-fire exercises for more realistic training.

Drills and exercises at the Joint Emergency Response Training Center will include simulated responses to rail car leaks, pipeline incidents, tanker truck crashes and other hazmat transportation scenarios.

Specialists from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Emergency Response Teams consulted with the Minnesota National Guard on construction to ensure training modules were realistic and useful for Minnesota first responders. The State Emergency Response Teams are managed by the State Fire Marshal Division.

“Hazardous materials emergencies can go from bad to catastrophic in an instant and our first responders don’t hesitate to run toward that danger,” said State Fire Marshal Jim Smith in the news release. “It’s our responsibility to ensure they are as prepared as possible for a disaster we hope never happens. This facility will give them the skills and experiences they need to help save lives in an emergency.”

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Twenty railroad companies transport hazardous materials and other cargo on 4,000 miles of rail line in Minnesota on any given day. In addition, trucking companies regularly move hazardous materials across the state’s freeway, highway, and interstate system.

“This joint project highlights how important the partnership the DPS and the Minnesota National Guard has, and how we continue to modernize our training and facilities,” said Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse, Minnesota National Guard’s assistant adjutant general and Camp Ripley’s senior commander, in the news release. “This allows our first responders to train in every environment and for every scenario. We are proud to have the (Joint Emergency Response Training Center) here and we are excited to continue paving the path forward together.”

Construction on the 5-acre facility began in 2021 and wrapped up earlier this summer. The first training event at the training center will be this weekend with the State Emergency Response Teams.

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